Many of the world’s greatest inventions were…y’know, complete accidents. Corn Flakes (originally designed to stop masturbation - yes, really), penicillin (just a mould in a petri dish), my conception and subsequent birth (something inbetween the two). They say necessity is the mother of invention, but what about having no idea what you’re doing and accidentally making something really cool?
Turns out that Silly String has a similar origin story.
Yes, that stuff you use to spray on people for a prank/at parties originally had a much more noble (and, let’s be honest, useful) application: to spray onto broken bones as a kind of “instant cast”.
The history of Silly String is much more illustrious than you might think, it turns out - and CNN’s Great Big Story documentary series is unearthing it.
Originally patented in 1972, Silly String was created by Leonard A. Fish and Robert P. Cox to be a “foamable resinous composition” - basically a spray can you could blast at broken arms and legs to create an instant cast. During nozzle testing, Fish found one that “shot the string 30 feet across the room” – and the toy was born. He sold the rights to toy manufacturer Wham-O and within weeks the spray was gracing statues/people’s faces/birthday parties across the world.
Great Big Story is also covering the history of Magic 8 Balls, pinball machines and more - check it out.