Each year, on the 6th of June, we pay tribute to a toy that has charmed generations and stood the test of time – the yo-yo. For more than three decades, this day has been officially designated as National Yo-Yo Day, a celebration that pays homage to this classic stringed plaything and its intriguing backstory. 1 2
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The Man Behind America’s Yo-Yo Obsession
The inception of National Yo-Yo Day is linked to the birthday of the late Donald F. Duncan Sr., a businessman from Chicago, who is credited with sparking America’s interest in the yo-yo. Duncan’s journey with the yo-yo began during a business expedition to San Francisco in 1928, where he observed Pedro Flores, an immigrant from the Philippines, skillfully using the toy. Flores had been marketing this toy under the name “yo-yo,” a term that translates to “come-come” in his native language. Sensing the immense potential of the yo-yo as a trendy new toy, Duncan swiftly acquired the initial rights from Flores and established Donald F. Duncan Inc. By 1932, he had obtained all of Flores’s assets, including the crucial trademark for the term “yo-yo”. Duncan remained the nation’s top yo-yo manufacturer until the trademark lapsed in 1965. 3
The Fascinating Structure of the Yo-Yo
The yo-yo, while simple in design, is a captivating toy. In its most rudimentary form, it comprises a wooden axle attached to two wooden disks, with a cotton string looped around the fixed axle. More sophisticated models consist of a threaded steel axle and a ball bearing, linked to two precision-machined aluminum disks, and a polyester string looped around the ball bearing. The yo-yo is activated by a vigorous unwinding throw, which sends it spinning to the end of the string. By letting the yo-yo spin at the string’s end, various tricks can be executed. A quick tug or a bind then causes the yo-yo to rewind back to the hand, a process known as “yo-yoing.”
A Timeless Toy with a Rich History
The yo-yo’s history extends far beyond ancient Greece, with depictions of a boy playing with a yo-yo on a Greek vase dating back to 500 BC. The term “yo-yo” made its first appearance in a Filipino dictionary in 1860. In the present day, the popularity of yo-yoing is at an all-time high, with more people engaging in the activity and more competitions being held globally than ever before. This enduring pastime has successfully bridged the gap between past and present generations. 4
Celebrating National Yo-Yo Day
Situated in Chico, California, the National Yo-Yo Museum marks National Yo-Yo Day with a host of engaging activities such as yo-yo demonstrations, guided tours, and the awarding of prizes and treats. Open all year round, the museum presents an extensive collection of yo-yos from different contemporary periods. The exhibits, which include contest awards, sweaters, and patches, weave a fascinating narrative of human creativity and progress. One of the museum’s standout features is an in-depth display that traces the development of the yo-yo from its traditional fixed axle design to today’s widely favored ball bearing axle. 5
Who is honored on National Yo-Yo Day?
National Yo-Yo Day honors Donald F. Duncan Sr., a Chicago businessman who popularized the yo-yo in America.
Why are yo-yos called yo-yos?
The term “yo-yo” first appeared in a Filipino dictionary in 1860. It means “come-come” in the native language of the Philippines, reflecting the motion of the toy.
Who invented the yo-yo?
The yo-yo is an ancient toy that dates back to at least 500 BC in Greece. However, the modern yo-yo as we know it was popularized by Pedro Flores, a Philippine immigrant, and Donald F. Duncan Sr., who bought the rights to the yo-yo from Flores.
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