Call for Ohio-made Duncan Yo-Yos


On November 20, 1866, James L. Haven and Charles Hettrick of Cincinnati, Ohio secured a patent for a “whirligig,” marking the first time the United States Patent Office granted rights for the toy commonly known as the yo-yo. [1]

Though the toy’s name may have changed, its connection to Ohio continues.
Produced in Middlefield, Geauga County, Ohio, the Duncan Yo-Yo has been one of the country’s favorite toys for nearly 85 years. In the late 1920s, businessman Donald F. Duncan saw a Filipino immigrant, Pedro Flores, demonstrating his “yo-yo” at a California hotel. [2] But, Flores never patented “yo-yo” and soon, Duncan bought the rights to the term, forever associating the toy with one name.

From the 1930s through the 1960s, the Duncan Yo-Yo Company manufactured nearly 85 percent of all yo-yos sold in the United States. Thanks to television advertising and the first National Yo-Yo Contest, the company sold 45 million yo-yos in 1962 alone. [3] 

DuncanWallpaper1024x768-15-(3).jpgHigh demand and a trademark protection lawsuit, however, forced the Duncan Yo-Yo Company into bankruptcy three years later. But, thanks to the Flambeau Products Corporation, the Duncan name lived on. Flambeau purchased Duncan in 1968 and in 1979, moved to its current location in Middlefield. [4] Twenty years later, as a new generation embraced the Ohio-made toy, the Duncan Yo-Yo earned its place in the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. [5]

 

Today, Duncan Yo-Yos fly (or should I say spin?) off the production line in Middlefield, Geauga County, Ohio. At the Ohio History Connection, our collection shows the state’s contributions to social and cultural history, with pieces from all 88 Ohio counties. 

One force behind all of our collections, of course, is your enthusiasm for sharing the objects that help tell Ohio’s story. 

Do you have an Ohio-made Duncan Yo-Yo that you would like to donate? If you’re interested in donating, send an email with your name, contact information and short description of the yo-yo to [email protected] or call us at 614-297-2535.

And, for your viewing pleasure…
 

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[1] http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Whirligig.
[2] David Hoffman, Kid Stuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996), 24.
[3] https://www.yo-yo.com/index.php/site/history>; https://www.yo-yo.com/index.php/site/news/full/1419.[4] http://www.flambeau.com/en/site/corporate/history.
[5] http://www.toyhalloffame.org/toys/year.

Posted June 6, 2015

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