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c. 1920s - 1930s

Look back at the dawn of the yo-yo craze

For a time, this little toy had the world on a string

German actor Ernst (Ernö) Verebes with a yo-yo in a Nelson-Revue in the Eden Hotel. 1st November 1932. Photograph. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) Der deutsche Filmsschauspieler Ernst (Ernö) Verebes mit einem Jo-Jo in einer Nelson-Revue im Eden-Hotel. 1. November 1932. Photographie.

Who invented the yo-yo? No one knows, but it’s an object that has existed as a toy—and for Ancient Greeks, as an offering to the gods—since at least the 5th century B.C.

But in 1928, the life of the yo-yo took off. That year, Filipino immigrant Pedro Flores opened the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in California. The name was perhaps a little too grand for Flores’ initial operation; he started with 12 handmade yo-yos.

And yet, just 18 months later, the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company was churning out more than 300,000 yo-yos everyday.  

That same year, perhaps unsurprisingly, Flores sold the company.  Three years later, in 1932, the first World Yo-Yo Championships was held, in London. 

Why the yo-yo held such appeal to the 1920s and 30s population is unknown, but possibly, like bubble-gum, it provided a cheap and fun distraction from the woes of the Great Depression.

c. 1935
A Swedish boy standing on a sidewalk, performing a trick with his yo-yo on a string.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
1932
A boy shows two women how to yo-yo, in a yo-yo competition.
Evening Standard/Getty Images
1932
Lou Gehrig plays with a yo-yo at League Park before the game between the Indians and Yankees.
Getty Images
1930s
A girl playing yo-yo on a street corner.
SSPL/Getty Images
1932
A boy and his yo-yo.
Ullstein Bild / Ggetty Images
1930
Two teenagers playing yo-yo in France.
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
1932
German actor ErnstVerebes with a yo-yo in a Nelson-Revue in the Eden Hotel.
Getty Images
1932
The son of Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco, taking his first yo-yo lesson with the American champion at the Lido cabaret, Paris, France.
Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
1930s
Two Filipino boys demonstrating the art of spinning a yo-yo.
Getty Images
1932
A man with a giant yo-yo.
Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
1932
A driver takes out his yo-yo.
Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
1932
A young woman plays with a yo-yo.
Ullstein Bild/ Getty Images
1932
A Bavarian family making yo-yos – an example of the work many families turned to in order to survive the economic crisis in Germany.
Ullstein Bild via Getty Images
1932
A waiter carries his tray in one hand and his yo-yo in the other.
Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
1932
Using a yo-yo while conducting a tram.
Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

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