Silly Putty, that beige blob beloved by kids, is another winning product that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Since 1950, 300 million eggs of the stuff -- roughly 4,500 tons -- have been sold, according to Crayola, which now owns the brand.
The widely-cited version of Silly Putty's creation (for which there are conflicting accounts) credits James Wright, an inventor employed by General Electric (GE - Get Report), with discovering the rubbery mix of boric acid and silicone oil in 1943. Like many chemists during World War II, he was seeking a synthetic rubber substitute amid a shortage of the real stuff. As fake rubber, the goo was a failure; as Wright shopped around his creation, however, a toyshop owner came up with the idea to market it to kids.