The yo-yo feels eternally new and exciting, but it is actually 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. Contrary to popular belief, the yo-yo was never a weapon. But it has been popular with such important warriors as Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington. The yo-yo has enjoyed many periods of popularity throughout world history.

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 at the hotel. He started a company to make the toys, calling it the Flores Yo-Yo Company. This was the first appearance of the name “yo-yo,” which means “come-come” in the native Filipino language of Tagalog.

Donald F. Duncan, an entrepreneur who had already introduced Good Humor Ice Cream and would later popularize the parking meter, 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.

Throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, Duncan promoted yo-yos with innovative programs of demonstrations and contests. All of the classic tricks were developed during this period, as legendary players toured the country teaching kids and carving thousands of yo-yos with pictures of palm trees and birds. During the 1950s, Duncan introduced the first plastic yo-yos and the Butterfly� yo-yo, which is much easier to land on the string for complex tricks. Duncan also began marketing spin tops during this period.

The biggest yo-yo boom in history (until 1995) hit in 1962, following Duncan’s 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.

The genuine Duncan yo-yo is a classic toy that has endured for 70 years. With more than 600 million sold, it is probably the most popular toy in history, and was recently inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Players can continue to build their yo-yo skills throughout their lives, making the yo-yo a perfect toy for all ages. Today yo-yos are bigger than ever, with millions of players from across the globe introducing new styles and tricks in international competition. Duncan’s standard plastic, classic wood, and new high-tech models continue to lead the way as the yo-yo enters another millennium of popularity. Happy yoing!

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