The Fascinating History Of Silly Putty

Whoa. Silly Putty is weird.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Silly Putty’s birth began as an accident. During WWII, rubber materials became scarce after Japan invaded territories that exported rubber goods and so the government funded research to find a synthetic rubber compound.

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A General Electric engineer named James Wright is generally credited as the creator of Silly Putty, making the discovery of the substance in 1943 when he combined boric acid and silicone oil.

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General Electric then sent out the Silly Putty prototype to several engineers to see if they could find any use for the material. No one did.

In 1949, a man named Peter Hodgson began marketing the bouncy goo as a toy, packaging small amount in the plastic egg casings you still see today.

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In 1950, The New Yorker ran an article about Silly Putty and Hodgson was flooded with orders — 250,000 of them. When Hodgson died, he left behind an estate of $140 million.

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Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In 1951, the Korean War almost put Silly Putty out of business as the government put restrictions on raw materials.

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Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In 1968, the Apollo 8 crew took Silly Putty with them into space, using the substance to tack down materials in zero-gravity.

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The peachy-beige color of Silly Putty was the only variety on the market until 1990 when fluorescent colors were introduced.

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Glow-in-the-dark Silly Putty was introduced in 1991.

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In 2000, a metallic Silly Putty was introduced to celebrate the toy’s 50th anniversary and the millennium.

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Apparently, Silly Putty no longer picks up images from comics and newspapers! This is because of a change in newspaper inks. It’s still, however, a widely recognized toy and over the years people have found multitudes of weird uses for it — as a fur/lint/dirt removal aid, for stress reduction, to insulate drinks to keep them cold, and many more.

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