Some of humanity’s greatest inventions were created by accident. Corn Flakes were originally meant to be a dough made from boiled wheat, Silly Putty was supposed to be an artificial rubber, and Silly String was designed by a chemist to be an instant spray-on cast, but went on to become a fun way to ambush party goers and newlyweds.
A series of mini-docs from CNN’s Great Big Story includes the history of the Super Soaker and the Magic 8-Ball, but most interesting is the story behind Silly String. Inventor Leonard A. Fish worked with chemist Robert P. Cox to invent a spray-on cast that could harden in seconds to help broken bones set.
The spray worked, but while testing various nozzles for one that would properly apply the product, they found one that produced a long blast of string which inspired them to tweak the formula so it was less sticky and sell it as a novelty item. They pitched the idea to Wham-O, and within a few weeks the spray was on its way to becoming a longtime staple of pranksters and birthday parties.