Kids these days have the luxury of entertaining themselves with their iPads, smartphones and various gaming consoles. But they don’t know the simple pleasures of what our generation’s playtime looked like: super soakers, Tamagotchis and yo-yos. In honor of National Yo-Yo Day on June 6, we at the Clog are taking you on a major throwback to the history of the yo-yo.
We remember the yo-yo as a brightly colored piece of plastic at the end of a string that always seemed to get tangled. Attempting fancy yo-yo tricks was a popular, competitive pastime — anyone else never figure out how to “walk the dog?” Anyway, the usage of yo-yos predates the 1990s by a long shot.
Dating the yo-yo back to 1000 B.C.E., historians argue that the first form of the yo-yo appeared in China — then called the Diabolo. However, it cannot be said that the yo-yo was first created in China, as records indicate similar objects being used around the world for centuries. Ancient Greek illustrations depict children playing with disks that resemble the modern yo-yo. These disks were ceramic and fragile, so historians speculate they were probably used for either decoration or as offerings to the gods.
Urban legends also claim that a larger version of the yo-yo was used as a weapon in the Philippines. Assailants would perch in treetops and release the yo-yo to knock out victims below, and the yo-yo would recoil back to its owner, ready for a second attack. It has yet to be proven that this weapon existed, but the yo-yo has existed as a toy in the Philippines for centuries. Filipinos are credited with coining the term “yo-yo,” as the word closely resembles the phrase “come-come” in a Filipino dialect.
Moving forward to the 20th century, Pedro Flores is credited with being the first yo-yo maker in the United States. Flores, after immigrating from the Philippines, went to high school in San Francisco and studied law at UC Berkeley (GO BEARS!). While working a series of odd jobs after graduating, he read an article about a self-made millionaire who made his money by selling a simple toy. Inspired, Flores redesigned one of his favorite childhood toys from the Philippines and started the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in 1928. Entrepreneur Donald Duncan paid Flores a fortune and bought the company. Duncan mass-produced the yo-yo and sent a troupe on a tour of the United States, entertaining crowds with yo-yo tricks and increasing the toy’s popularity. By the end of the 20th century, the yo-yo was a common household item, found on playgrounds and even professional contests.
Even though the yo-yo might not be as popular today, cults of yo-yo trick masters still exists (check YouTube!). The yo-yo will always hold a special place in our hearts. And who knows? Maybe they’ll make a comeback! After all, yo-yos always come back, right?
Image Source: Doctor Popular under Creative Commons