Silly Putty, the most famous mystery goo, New Haven, Connecticut, 1943
Silly Putty was originally invented in Connecticut by chemist James Wright. While working for General Electric during World War II, Wright was looking for an alternative to rubber. He mixed boric acid with silicone oil and came up with a bouncy, squishy goo that would stretch, would not go moldy, had a high melting temperature, and could stick to (and be cleanly removed from) a variety of surfaces. Not enough like rubber to solve the problem. Wright couldn’t find a use for the mystery goo except as a gag at parties. Eventually, it got into the hands of a marketer, Peter Hodgson, who packaged a batch of it into plastic eggs and sold them for $1 a piece. Sales were slow until a mention in New Yorker magazine. Within three days of the article’s publication, sales hit 250,000. Silly Putty has since found all kinds of uses. Occupational therapists use it to assist with hand injuries. Stress relief. Hair and dust remover around the house. Apollo astronauts even used it to secure their tools in zero gravity!