Duncan Yo-Yo

Inducted 1999

Versions of the yo-yo are said to have originated in ancient Greece or even earlier in China, but the first yo-yo craze seized Americans in the mid-19th century when several manufacturers patented improvements to the toy. At the beginning of the 20th century, Scientific American published directions for making yo-yos. But the story of the modern yo-yo began in the 1920s. Filipino bellhop Pedro Flores caught guests’ attention by playing with the toy on his lunch breaks at a Southern California hotel. (Yo-yo means “come come” in a native Philippine language.) Flores saw a business opportunity and began manufacturing the toys. Donald F. Duncan—father of the Good Humor ice cream bar—first saw a yo-yo in California in 1928. A year later, he bought Flores out. Duncan’s company generated millions of customers by staging contests where yo-yo “champions” could make the toy “walk the dog,” “shoot the moon,” “rock the cradle,” and go “around the world.” In the early 1960s, a national television campaign intoned the slogan, “if it isn't a Duncan, it isn’t a yo-yo!” High expenses and a trademark protection lawsuit put Duncan personally out of business in 1965, but his manufacturer, Flambeau Products, continued making yo-yos.