Who Invented the Yo-Yo?
The yo-yo was first used as a toy in ancient Greece. Pieces of ancient Greek pottery show children playing with yo-yos, just like kids do today! The first yo-yos were made of wood or terra cotta about 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece and some of them are on display at the Greek Archaeological Museum in Athens.
These ancient yo-yos were often decorated with pictures of Greek gods. As children began to enter adulthood in antiquity, it became a tradition for them to place their yo-yos on the family altar to pay homage as a rite of passage. Yoyos were popular in Europe during the 1700s. Aristocratic children in France played with yo-yos of ivory and other precious materials.
The modern yo-yo boom started in the United States in the 1920s. These yo-yos came from the Philippine Islands, where yo-yos made of stone were used as weapons for fighting enemies and for hunting animals. The name is a Philippine dialect word meaning “come-come.”
However, it was not until Donald F. Duncan that the toy became popular worldwide. Duncan, an entrepreneur, first encountered the yo-yo during a business trip to California. He purchased the company acquiring not only the unique toy, but also the magic name “yo-yo.” Duncan introduced the looped slip-string, which allows the yo-yo to sleep–a necessity for advanced tricks.
The biggest yo-yo boom was in 1962, following its innovative use by 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. National Yo-Yo Day is celebrated annually on the birthday of Donald F. Duncan and even today yo-yo continues to fascinate people of all ages.