Putty - At the beginning of World War II, America needed an inexpensive
substitute for rubber to help with the war effort. In 1943, James Wright, a
General Electric engineer working on a synthetic rubber project at their New
Haven facility accidentally dropped boric acid into a container of silicon oil.
When he retrieved the substance, he notice it was very pliable and that it
bounced. In addition, the substance copied any newspaper or comic-book print
that it touched. He dubbed this strange substance "nutty putty."
Samples of the product were sent to numerous scientists
for research purposes but nothing substantial came of their investigations.
Then, in 1949, Peter Hodgson, a former advertising copywriter running a New
Haven toy store observed a piece of this strange "goop" at a party.
Thinking the pliable goo had marketing potential, Hodgson
bought the production rights from GE, purchased $147 dollars worth of the stuff
and with the assistance of a Yale university student, divided the putty into
one-ounce balls and packaged them inside little plastic colored egg-shaped
containers to sell during the upcoming Easter season. Naming his product Silly
Putty, the pink polymer sold for $1 a piece.
After Silly Putty was mentioned in The New Yorker
magazine's "Talk of the Town" section on Aug. 26, 1950, the simple product
became a 1950s craze and went on to become a multi-million dollar industry.
Peter Hodgson, once said of his invention "Silly Putty
appeals to people of superior intellect." At his death in 1976, Peter Hodgson's
product had earned him an estate worth $140 million. Reportedly, Americans still
buy more than two million eggs of Silly Putty every year.
An ad in the back of the 1964 issue of DC Comics The Atom
No. 14. read: "You can have hours and hours of fun with Silly Putty...the wonder
toy of the 20th century."
Other uses for Silly Putty include picking up lint and
pet hair, cleaning typewriter keys, plugging leaks, and being used as a nifty
hand-held physical therapy tool for relieving stress-reduction.
In 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 used pieces of Silly Putty
to alleviate boredom and to secure their tools in zero-gravity.
One formula for Silly Putty found on the Internet
describes its composition as follows: 65% Dimethyl Siloxane, hydroxy-terminated
polymers with boric acid; 17% Silica, quartz crystalline; 9% Thixotrol ST; 4%
Polydimethylsiloxane; 1% Decamethyl cyclopentasiloxane; 1% Glycerine; and 1%
Silly Putty comes in classic, glow-in-the-dark, glitter,
and four hot fluorescent colors (magenta, orange, green and yellow).
Silly Putty® is a registered trademark of Binney & Smith
TRIVIA NOTE: In 2001, comedian George Carlin wrote a book
& Silly Putty, a compendium of cranky meditations and observations on
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