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Fascinating facts about the invention
of the
Yo-Yo by Donald F. Duncan in 1928.
YO-YO
The yo-yo has enjoyed many periods of popularity throughout world history and may be the second oldest toy in the world (after dolls). There are ancient Greek yo-yos made of terra cotta in museums in Athens and yo-yos are pictured on the walls of Egyptian temples. The Yo-Yo is known to have been popular with such important warriors as Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. First patented in 1866 by James L. Haven and Charles Hettrich, the Yo-Yo has enjoyed periods of popularity for generations with kids from 1 - 100.
Original Duncan Yo-Yo
Original Duncan Yo-Yo
"
O-Boy Yo-Yo Toy"
circa 1930
The modern story of the yo-yo starts with a young gentleman from the Philippines, named Pedro Flores. In the 1920s, he moved to the USA, and worked as a bellhop at a Santa Monica hotel. Carving and playing with wooden yo-yos was a traditional pastime in the Philippines, but Pedro found that his lunch break yo-yo playing drew a crowd was the first appearance of the name "yo-yo," which means "come-come" in the at the hotel. He started a company to make the toys, calling it the Flores Yo-Yo Company.

Donald F. Duncan, an entrepreneur first encountered the yo-yo during a business trip to California. A year later, in 1929, he returned and bought the company from Flores, acquiring not only a unique toy, but also the magic name "yo-yo." About this time, Duncan introduced the looped slip-string, which allows the yo-yo to sleep - a necessity for advanced tricks.
During the 1950s, Duncan introduced the first plastic yo-yos and the Butterfly® shaped yo-yo, which is much easier to land on the string for complex tricks. The biggest yo-yo boom in history hit in 1962, following the innovative use of TV advertising. Financial losses at the end of the boom, and a costly lawsuit to protect the yo-yo trademark from competitors forced the Duncan family out of business in the late 60s. Flambeau Products, who made Duncan’s plastic models, bought the company and still owns it today.

Steve Brown is granted U.S. Patent #6,371,824 for "Yo-Yo, and Method for Using a Yo-Yo". The patent covers the Freehand counterweight system, and is assigned to Flambeau Products, the parent company of Duncan Toys. Steve spends a full two days jumping up and down with glee

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
History of Toys  from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:

The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages (March, 1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident.
Accidents May Happen: 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Hardcover - 86 pages (1996) / Delacorte
Fifty inventions discovered by mistake serious subjects which will delight and entertain kids.
Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs.
Lucky's Collectors Guide to 20th Century Yo-Yos: History & Values
by Lucky J. Meisenheimer / Paperback - 240 pages 1 edition (Oct.1999) / Lucky J S Swim & Surf Inc
This guide to 20th Century Yo-Yos is the most comprehensive yo-yo guide ever published, containing coverage of the history of major manufacturers as well as the history of yo-yo contests.
Yo-Yo: 45 Tricks & Tips
by Stuart F., Jr. Crump / Paperback - 96 pages (May 1999) / New American Library
The wit and cleverness shines through on every page, making what could be only drab descriptions into entertainment even for those who know these tricks by heart.

The Yo-Yo Book & the Yo-Yo
by John Ten Eyck, David Cain (Illustrator) / Paperback - 168 pages Book & toy edition (July 1998) / Workman Publishing Company
This book is steeped in the "state of yo," a place where technique, culture, challenge, and lore intersect. Packaged with all the equipment a child needs--one ready-to-roll yo-yo. The yo-yo itself is made of hardwood and comes with the only truly acceptable yo-yo string --long-fiber cotton.

ON THE WEB:
Pedro Flores
Excepts on inventor Flores from "Lucky’s Guide to YoYo collecting" by Lucky Meisenheimer.
(URL: www.nationalyoyo.org/main/Pedro_Flores.htm)
Bad Fads Museum
It is more than a toy, the yo-yo has been used for hundreds of years as a weapon, often with blades attached. The attacker would hide in a tree and sling it to strike an unsuspecting victim walking below
(URL: www.badfads.com/pages/collectibles/yoyo.html)

Official Duncan Yo-Yo Web Site
Duncan is the authentic, original yo-yo. They have been the leading yo-yo company since 1929. In fact, the word "yo-yo" itself was a registered trademark of Duncan until 1965. The history of yo-yo playing in the 20th Century has largely been the history of Duncan.
(URL: www.yo-yo.com)
National Yo Yo Museum
The Premier Display of America's Favorite Toy.Enjoy a historic glimpse into the technical and cultural evolution of the "toy of the century." The Museum is a great way to view the history of the sport, It shows todays young competitor that generations of kids have played with the same toy.
(URL: www.nationalyoyo.org)

Yo-Yo With a Brain
In 1984, Yomega Corp. of, Fall River, Massachusetts introduced the most important breakthrough in yo-yo technology since the invention of the slip-string, or sleeping, yo-yo, namely, "Yomega, the yo-yo with a Brain®.
(URL: www.yomega.com/yo-yos/index.htm)

DID YOU KNOW:

  • the word "yo-yo" itself was a registered trademark of Duncan until 1965.
  • The World’s Most Valuable Yo-Yo belonged to country star Roy Acuff. The yo-yo was a present from Acuff to President Richard Nixon. Nixon tried a few yo-yo tricks with it (he didn’t fare very well), then autographed the yo-yo and gave it back to Acuff. When Acuff died, the yo-yo was sold at auction. It fetched $16,000.
  • According to the Duncan Yo-Yo Company, yo-yos are the world’s second-oldest known toy. The oldest? The doll.
  • Since the 1930s, over half a billion yo-yos have been made and sold.
  • The first World Yo-Yo contest was held in 1932.
  • A patent (US) No. 59,745 was issued November 20, 1866 to Haven Heffrich for a Whirligig.
  • Donald Duncan paid Pedro Flores $25,000 to buy Flores’s yo-yo company. It was the best $25,000 he ever spent.
  • The fad that began in the late 1920s, and was predicted to last "shorter than a case of measles" now has produced its fourth generation of players.
  • There was no legal patent held for the standard yo-yo by Pedro Flores. He did apply for and receive a trademark for the Flores Yo-yo and this was registered on July 22, 1930. It was shortly after this that Flores sold his interest in the yo-yo factories which were later acquired by the Donald Duncan Yo-Yo Company.
  • Donald F. Duncan is also credited with popularizing the parking meter. He also invented Eskimo Pie and introduced Good Humor "ice cream on a stick."
  • "yo-yo" (meaning "come-come", "come back" or "return" in the native language of the Philippines, Tagalog.)
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised March, 2005.
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