The Great Mystery Of The Yoyo

Samuel Reason - November 28th, 2020

Strangely enough one of the funniest human invention origins is a complete mystery. We’re talking about the yo-yo, the childhood toy that eats up countless hours as you try to master the spins. Of course, the general consensus from historians is that it was probably invented in China. However, the first mention in historical counts comes from Greece during 500 B.C.E.

Originally it seems the yo-yo was made out of metal or wood and was painted colorfully. In fact, most historians believe the term yo-yo did not exist back then. It is thought these devices were simply referred to as disks. It was custom that when a child entered adulthood, they would offer up their toys to certain gods. It seems the yo-yo was generally used for this purpose, given the disks were also made of clay they were quite easily broken. There is a vase in The National Greek History museum in Athens, that displays a vase with a painting of children playing with a yo-yo. This vase is dated from 500 B.C.E so it shows the Greeks definitely were aware of these devices and liked them.

During the 16th century, hunters in the Philippines used a yo-yo like a device when hunting. They would hide up in trees with a 20-foot cord attached to the device. This way they had several attempts to kill the animal from above by using the cord to yo-yo the disk back up.

In 1798, we find a painting of King Louis XVII aged four who was playing with a yo-yo. In French, they called it the l’emigrette, which is funny as today this word means “Leave The Country”. Perhaps a reference to the upcoming french revolutions that rid the country of the royal family.

To find the Yo-yo we know today, we have to go back to the Philippines. During their time using the device for hunting, they became experts wood craftsmen and experts at making the toy. Given its wide use, the children became experts at playing with the toy also. In fact, the yo-yo in the Phillippines is seen as a national pastime. During the 1920s, Pedro Flores moved to America from the Philippines taking with him the first-ever wood-carved Filipino Yo-yo to the US.

On arrival he saw it as an untapped market, so Flores started a company in California called Yo-yo. With a 2,500-year-old age to its name, the Yo-yo despite nobody knowing its origins is, in fact, the best-selling toy in history.

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