A Brief History of Yo-Yoing

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Yo-yos were invented over a thousand years ago; they are one of the oldest toys on the planet. For centuries, people have been playing yo-yo for their own entertainment and for the entertainment of others. There have been a lot of innovations since those first yo-yos were made. Originally, they were simply a solid, two-hubbed device with a string tied to the axle that went up and down. Within the last couple of decades however, the innovations in the yo-yo industry have exploded their potential. From the humble beginnings as a toy with limited versatility and function they have become a high-tech gadget with ball-bearings and weight systems designed to increase their spin time dramatically and to make tricks easier than we could have before conceived.

The yo-yo was around during the times of ancient Greece; we have artifacts proving as much. Though, the history around the toy has been vague at best, for more historians that would consider putting much effort into deciphering the past of this toy have lost interest due to the lack of solid data. Many civilizations are credited with inventing the toy. The ancient Greeks are one of the first, and the Chinese and Philippine civilizations have their stories of how the yo-yo originated in their cultures. The latest, popular story is that the yo-yo was developed first as a weapon by Philippine hunters to use for stunning and killing their animal game. This story however is a hoax, developed by the Duncan Yo-Yo Company decades ago as a marketing ploy.

The yo-yo industry came to life in the early 1900s when a Philippine immigrant named Pedro Flores moved to California, bringing with him the yo-yo toy of his culture at the time. While performing his tricks in California, he saw the yo-yo’s ability to draw in a crowd and soon started his own yo-yo company, manufacturing and selling his yo-yos to his audience.

It was around this time Donald Duncan came into the picture. Donald Duncan was already a successful businessman when he met Pedro at a hotel in California. He was so interested in the yo-yo and its ability to draw people in that he bought the rights to the toy and began producing and marketing them, developing a team of Duncan Yo-Yo Professionals to help spread information on the toys as well as organize competitions to promote hype for them. Duncan was a smart businessman. He aligned himself with larger organizations and companies to help promote his toy; companies like the Cheerio Cereal Company and Disney that already had quite a large following at the time. His business exploded, selling millions of yo-yos a year until the mid-60s when demand for the toy diminished and Duncan lost the trademark for the word “Yo-Yo”. Duncan Yo-Yos went bankrupt and was bought out by a plastics company known as Flambeau that now holds ownership to the Duncan Yo-Yo line and still produces yo-yos to this day.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the yo-yoing industry started to pick back up, with great minds like Dr. Tom Kuhn innovating and incorporating new technologies into their yo-yo designs like the ball-bearing. Once this new innovation caught on, the arsenal of tricks a yo-yoer could be capable of exploded; from hundreds of trick possibilities to literally thousands. Because of the addition of the ball bearing yo-yoing became a high-tech sport. There are almost no limits to the tricks capable of being accomplished when the performer has a good background on trick fundamentals. There are five competition level styles available for yo-yo’ers to pursue, including traditional yo-yoing (called 1a), two-handed looping (called 2a), two-handed string tricks (called 3a), off-string; similar to the Chinese yo-yo or Diabolo (called 4a) and the latest style developed in the late 90s called counterweight (or 5a).

With the amount of technological advances and the typical yo-yo’ers ability to tie himself in to so many industries, the yo-yo’s technological revolution is in full swing. The end of the advances is nowhere near in sight, and the possibilities around this toy are virtually limitless. With such an incredible track history, the amount of time the yo-yo has existed, and the amount of enthusiasm and effort put into today’s yo-yo industry, it is quite possible that this toy will never stop spinning.

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