Museum Blog

Hanging On By a String

The yo-yo has a long history, dating back to China around 1000 B.C. according to the National Museum of Play. Terra cotta disks have been found during archaeological digs in Greece, and Greek vases show figures playing with similar objects. By the 1700s, the toy had made it to France under various names.

The yo-yo made its appearance in the United States in the 1920s when Pedro Flores, a young Filipino man sold hand carved yo-yos in California. His business caught the attention od Donald F. Duncan, who purchased the company and trademarked name “yo-yo” in 1928. Duncan marketed his yo-yos by hiring young Filipino men to demonstrate the toys in various places as well as sponsoring tournaments.

One such contest took place in Cañon City on May 14, 1932. Sponsored by the Cañon City Daily Record, the Fox-Jones Theater, and Hunter Palmer’s Drug Store, the only contest requirements were that every entrant be 18 years of age or under and use a Duncan Gold Seal 25-cent yo-yo. A silver cup was given to the winner while second prize was a baseball glove from Hunter Palmer’s, third prize was two tickets to the Fox-Jones Theater for a week, fourth prize was baseball bat from Hunter Palmer’s, and fifth prize was one pass to the Fox-Jones Theater for one week. Arthur (Art) Beltram, a stunt yo-yoer, was in the city during the week to give demonstrations.

The winner of the contest was Warren Ireland with Stanley Williams in second place. George Cain, Dudley Van Buskirk, and Kent Davis Jr. came in third, fourth, and fifth respectively. In all, about 20 boys entered the contest, some so small their yo-yos touched the ground!  

“Ralph in school clothes, 1932. His yo-yo doesn’t show,” 1932. Object ID: 1994.016.183; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

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