June 6 is National Yo-yo Day. It’s called that because it’s the birthday of a man named Donald F. Duncan Sr. (Sr. stands for Senior.) More about him in a bit.In the early 1960s, yo-yos were one of the hottest-selling toys in America. How many were sold? In 1962 in the United States, there were about 40 million kids old enough to play with yo-yos. That year, 45 million yo-yos were sold. The business that sold them was the Duncan Toys Company and people called the toys “Duncan Yo-yos.”A yo-yo (also spelled yoyo) is a toy that is made from a short axle that connects two disks. The end of a string is tied with a loop around the axle. A loop at the other end of the string is placed around a person’s finger. The string is wound around the axle until the yo-yo is in the person’s hand. With a flick of the wrist, the yo-yo spins downward, unwinding the string as it goes and continuing until the end is reached. Then, with a slight jerk of the hand, the yo-yo seems to magically wind back up the string, ending up where it started.The simplest way to play with it is to repeatedly send the yo-yo down and up, down and up, down and up. There are other simple tricks it can be made to do. And then there are some not-so-simple tricks, some difficult tricks, and some extremely hard ones. Beyond that, comes nearly unbelievable tricks done by professional yo-yoers. (Yes there is such a thing.)If you have never seen or tried a yo-yo, there are plenty of videos on the Internet of people yo-yoing. And stores still sell yo-yos.Donald Franklin Duncan was born June 06, 1892 in Kansas City, Missouri. He is usually referred to as Donald F. Duncan Sr. because he had a son named Donald F. Duncan Jr. (Junior.)Yo-yo Day is in honor of Donald’s birthday, but he didn’t invent the yo-yo – he just helped make it popular in the United States. Yo-yos have been used for several thousand years. There is evidence from ancient China, Greece, and Egypt that this type of toy was used long ago.Though Yo-Yo Day happens on Donald’s birthday, maybe it should be on Pedro Flores’s birthday.Pedro was born on April 26, 1896 in the Philippines and came to the United States in 1915. Yo-yos were used in the Philippines, both as toys and as weapons. Filipinos called them yo-yos.Pedro built a yo-yo factory in California in 1928. He also started yo-yo competitions. His efforts sparked the first yo-yo craze in the United States. An innovation that Pedro’s company made is instead of the string being tied to the axle so that all the yo-yo could do is go down and up, they made a small loop at the end of the string. This made it possible for the yo-yo to spin (or sleep, as it’s called) at the bottom of the string until jerked upward.It was at a yo-yo competition that Donald first saw the toy in action. In 1930, he raised $5,000 and bought Pedro’s business. He also hired Pedro to run promotional campaigns, such as competitions and exhibitions.Donald’s business was called the Duncan Toys Company. He made the yo-yo into something that everyone wanted, and thanks to him, it became one of the greatest-selling toys of all time.In 1932, Donald received a trademark for the word yo-yo. That meant that only his company could use that word. Other companies could not. They had to call their versions things like Come-Back or Whirl-a-Gig or Returning Top. In 1965, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the word yo-yo had become a common word in the English language and not the name of a specific product. That meant that all companies could use the word yo-yo on their packages.In 1965, the Duncan Toys Company was bought by the Flambeau Plastics Company, which continued to call the toys Duncan Yo-yos.Beginning in the 1970s, manufacturers began making improvements to the toy. For example, they made some with the rim of the yo-yo heavier than the center so it could spin longer. Later on, all kinds of innovations were created, such as take-apart models so the axle could be replaced, and even models with gears and a clutch. Some were given ball-bearing axles—the kind used in fidget spinners.In the United States there is an organization called the National Yo-Yo League. Each year, they host the U.S. National Yo-Yo Contest. Winners of that get to participate in the World Yo-Yo Contest. But you don’t need to be a national champion or world-class yo-yoer to enjoy this fun and fascinating toy.Thank you Pedro Flores and thank you Donald F. Duncan Sr. for bringing the joy of yo-yoing to millions of kids in America. And also to millions of adults. Happy Yo-yo Day!Fun Facts•  In 1985, a yo-yo was taken to space by NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery mission as part of their “Toys In Space” project. There are videos online of how the yo-yo behaved in zero gravity.•  The world’s largest wooden yo-yo is in California. It is made from pine, birch and maple, and is 5.5 foot in diameter, has a 75 foot string, and weighs 250 pounds.•  The largest working yo-yo measures almost 12 feet in diameter, weighs 4,620 pounds, and uses a 120-foot rope for a string. In 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio, a 75-ton crane lifted the yo-yo, held the end of the rope, and let the yo-yo drop. It successfully rebounded up the rope, setting a world record.

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