Carpe diem! If there is any day to walk the dog, pop the clutch, rock the baby, skin the cat, shoot the moon, or split the atom, today is the day, June 6th, National Yo-Yo Day. Flying Saucer, Around the World, Over The Falls, Buddha’s Revenge, Three Leaf Clover, Double On Trapeze, Brain Twister …
National Yo-Yo Day falls on what is believed to be the birthday for the entrepreneur who in 1932 got into the yo-yo business and built an empire, Donald Duncan Sr. Though the truth is the Duncan Company isn’t exactly sure the 6th of June is actually his birth date.
Yo-yos have been popular toys for more than 2,500 years, probably originating in China around 500-1000 B.C., though there is some evidence the Greeks had yo-yos even before then. While yo-yos in one form or another have existed for centuries, the yo-yo as we know it today seems to have originated in the Philippines.
Early yo-yos had a variety of different names; sometimes they were called quizzes, bandelores or Jou-Jous. The earliest recorded account of the word yo-yo is from an 1860 Filipino dictionary. Webster’s Dictionary states that the word "yo-yo" probably derives from the Philippine Ilokano language word "yóyo." Other sources suggest that "yo-yo" is a variation of a Tagalog word meaning “come-come” or “return.” My favorite neo-fact about yo-yo's: the urban legend that they were sometimes used in the Philippines as a martial arts weapon.
In 1923 in Santa Barbara, California, Pedro Flores, a Filipino-American, went into the business of building yo-yo's by hand. Five years later in 1928, Flores started the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company and the first yo-yo factory. He also began to host yo-yo competitions. With in a couple of years Flores opened two additional factories in Los Angeles employing over 600 workers and produced 300,000 units daily. Donald Duncan recognized the potential of this yo-yo mania sweeping the west coast and bought out the Flores Yo-yo Corporation. Duncan is said to have paid more than $250,000 for all assets, a fortune in the depression era. He then hired Flores to run Duncan's promotional campaigns.
During the Second World War, sales dropped off, as did the availability of materials. But in 1946 yo-yo's again took off, the Duncan Company moved to Luck, Wisconsin, and quickly became known as the “Yo-Yo Capital of the World.” The Duncan factory produced some 3,600 wooden yo-yo's per hour.
The next big step in the yo-yo evolution was replacing the maple bodies. Duncan partnered with the company Flambeau Plastics in the mid 1950’s to produce the first plastic yo-yo's. Sales went through the roof. By 1962, the Duncan Company alone sold a record 45 million yo-yo's in a nation with only 40 million kids, and still could not keep up with the crazy demand. A couple of years later, Duncan Sr. retired and gave control of his company to his sons. The Duncan family sold the company name and associated trademarks in 1968 to Flambeau Plastics. Today Yo-yo competitions and exhibitions are held world wide. The 2009 World Yo-Yo Contest will be held in Orlando, Florida at the Rosen Plaza Hotel on August 13th, 14th, and 15th. Workshops and panel discussions, covering numerous topics of interest, will be held during the three days of competition. The event hall has over 10,000 feet of yo-yoing space with 22 foot ceilings and will be open 24 hours a day during the event. Sounds like a party about to spin out of control.