In the early 70s, Wham-O toys introduced Silly String, an aerosol can of colored foam that you could spray at your friends across the room. And over the years, millions of people of all ages have delighted in the fun that only a can of Silly String can provide.
But that wasn’t its originally intended purpose, nor its most important one. Read on to find out the real story of Silly String.
Silly String was discovered entirely by accident. Two inventors were trying to develop a spray-on cast for medical emergencies. The problem was, they were having a problem finding a nozzle for the can that would work with their substance.
Sifting through hundreds of nozzles, they eventually found one that shot the can’s contents 30 feet across the room. A lightbulb went off in their heads, and they decided they might have discovered a pretty cool novelty toy.
They were right. They approached Wham-O toys, who quickly bought the rights and released the product. Silly String flew off store shelves, quickly becoming a crowd favorite at birthday parties, weddings and any other place filled with the unsuspecting potential victims of a string attack.
All was well in the land of Silly String until we became a little wiser about fluorocarbons. Also, parents never really liked cleaning up the stuff. Nor do a number of US cities that have banned the use of Silly String during various events. It’s still sold under a variety of names; it’s just a bit more frowned upon these days.
But lest you think that the overall contributions of Silly String are less than important, you might be surprised to find out that the military takes great interest in the substance. They use it to identify the locations of trip mines. It is too lightweight to set off an explosion and instead just dangles there alerting troops of the danger. No joke – many a soldier’s life has been saved by string shot from a can that, it turns out, isn’t quite so silly after all.
Do you have fond memories emptying a can of Silly String on the nearest sibling or perhaps the family pet? I hope you’ll take a moment to share all of your Silly String stories with us in our comments section below.
The inventors of this product were from Madison Wisconsin. I”m looking for a high resolution version of this photo for a book I’m working on. Any chance that you might have one?
The good people at Wham-O might get an argument from my mother regarding the “comes right off” claim made at the end of that vintage TV commercial. I unloaded an entire can of this stuff in our backyard soon after purchasing it and was quickly made aware that buying anymore would necessitate finding my seven year old ass somewhere else to live.