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The History of an Ancient Toy

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Yo, Camp Fans!

Today is National Yo-Yo Day. The Yo-Yo is an ancient toy that people have been dropping and catching for roughly 3000 years, maybe longer. It’s surprising to discover how old it is. Of course, it’s a simple enough construction: just an axle rod connected to disks on either end with a string looped around the axle. What’s surprising is that the concept of this toy was discovered that long ago!

But it’s true. 

Depicted on a terra cotta vase thought to be from 440 BC, this image I included shows a boy playing with a Yo-Yo—proof that the toy really is that old. Terra cotta (which literally translates to ‘baked earth’) is a popular material, and was especially so during ancient times. Yo-Yos were certainly made of terra cotta and other materials. Greek records describe wood, metal, and painted terra cotta toys in 440 BC.

To begin yo-yoing, you need to let the Yo-Yo drop with the free end of the string looped on your finger. The Yo-Yo is intended then to wind itself back up to your hand. One of the oldest tricks in the Yo-Yo book is called ‘The Sleeper’—the Yo-Yo spins at the end of the string for a noticeable amount of time before returning to your hand. A slew of other tricks have since been invented.

The Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California opened its doors in 1928. Company owner, Pedro Flores, a Filipino immigrant set up shop with a dozen handmade Yo-Yos and by the end of the next year, he was operating two additional factories, producing 300,000 Yo-Yos every day! The toy was a mega hit.

Have you ever tried your hand at the Yo-Yo before? Pick one up today if you have one around and find out what you can do! Happy National Yo-Yo Day, Everybody. And, as always, thanks for reading!


- John

Posted in Random Thoughts


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