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How the Slinky played an important role in World War II

It’s a toy story. 

The new History Channel docuseries, “The Toys That Built America,” premiering Sunday (Nov. 29) at 9 p.m., uncovers the stunning historical past of iconic merchandise comparable to the Slinky, Silly Putty, Matchbox vehicles, slingshots and board video games (together with Monopoly).

“Doing this through the lens of history is important because these American toys are so much a part of our history. You’re talking about toys and terminology that has entered into our lexicon as a culture,” sais Jordan Hembrough, 51, (“Toy Hunter”), a New Jersey-based toy professional featured on the present.

“People know what a Slinky is, and to really put a historical backstory behind a lot of these is to educate consumers about the history of their childhood.” 

Through re-enactments, the present reveals how the Slinky originated in the Nineteen Forties, when Naval engineer Richard James was tasked with creating a tool to stabilize delicate tools that was being transported by tough seas throughout World War II. 

A man cradles a slinky in his hands.
A re-enactment scene from the present, displaying an actor taking part in engineer Richard James growing the now well-known slinky.

“These cargo ships were traveling across the ocean and they needed stabilizers, so that’s what the engineer Richard James tried to invent the Slinky for. But, when it didn’t work out, he was able to make up a toy,” mentioned Hembrough. “I thought that whole backstory was really interesting.” 

Actors sit around a table playing a board game.
A re-enactment scene on the present depicts the origins of the board sport Monopoly.

He additionally cited the tremendous bounce ball as one in every of his favourite toys to dive into.  

“Everyone grew up with a little rubber ball. We all had one or more friends who had one,” he mentioned. “It was invented in 1964 by a chemist [and] that’s a terrific backstory as nicely. I feel the toys which are underrated are the ones we use a lot that we don’t acknowledge how nice they’re.

“Believe it or not, my favorite toy was the simplest toy — the Frisbee — because growing up in the ’70s and early ’80s, they were all over the place. So that’s what I loved learning about, because it’s one of those toys that was in every house you went to.”

Hembrough himself received into the toy trade on a whim, when he was a youngster. 

“I started at 16 years old, buying and selling vintage retro toys. It was better than getting a paper route and the money was good. And I never stopped — I made a career out of it.”

Jordan Hembrough wears a leather jacket and smiles.
Toy professional. seller, and TV host Jordan Hembrough
Jemal Countess

Ever since then, other than internet hosting “Toy Hunter” for Travel Channel, he’s labored with corporations comparable to Marvel and Lucasfilms, internet hosting digital sequence “Our Star Wars Stories” and internet hosting Disney’s 2019 D23 Expo. 

“I think a lot of adults are getting into toys right now. There’s a broader demographic,” he mentioned. “Even toy juggernaut Lego is definitely concentrating on their promoting campaigns in the direction of grownup collectors as a result of they understand that adults are shopping for these actually high- finish Lego units for $400 or $500.

“Hasbro has a very high line of ‘Star Wars’ toys that is targeted towards adult collectors. So really within the past 10 years, you’re seeing toy and comic collecting coming back into the mainstream because of the Lucasfilm and Star Wars and Marvel movies, and the incredible impact they’ve had on cinema.”

“Everyone had a childhood. We all had a favorite childhood toy, so this truly is a series that families can watch together and really talk about shared experiences,” Hembrough mentioned. “Mom and dad can talk about their favorite toys with the kids. Toys are universal, so this will appeal to everyone.”

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