The yo-yo business has seen its share of ups and downs. While similar toys probably existed in ancient Greece and China, the yo-yo got its distinctive name in the Philippines in the 1920s -- most likely from the Ilocano term yóyo, which literally means “come, come.” Its first star turn in the United States occurred at a Southern California hotel in the 1920s, where a yo-yo flipping Filipino bellhop named Pedro Flores entertained guests on his lunch breaks. Flores began manufacturing yo-yos, but was later bought out by Donald F. Duncan, who showed the country how to “walk the dog” and go “around the world,” among other yo-yo tricks. His early 1960s ad campaign claimed that “if it’s not a Duncan, it isn’t a yo-yo,” but when he tried to prevent other companies from using the term, the courts got involved. In a 1965 trademark case, a federal court ruled that “yo-yo” had become part of the common vernacular, and that Duncan did not have exclusive rights to the name. Not long after, Duncan Toys Co. declared bankruptcy.
The world on a string:
- The first trademark of "yo-yo" was registered in 1932 by Sam Dubiner in Vancouver, Canada. The first World Yo-Yo Contest was held the same year in London; Harvey Lowe took home the top prize.
- In 1933, yo-yos were actually outlawed in Syria when superstitious Syrians blamed their use on a severe drought gripping the nation.
- The Duncan yo-yo was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999.