Donald F. Duncan, Sr. Was known an ext for his entrepreneurial ventures than because that his inventions.

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Duncan was the founder that the Duncan toys Company. You may recognize their name associated with a small thing dubbed the?Yo-Yo?While Duncan did no actually invent the Yo-Yo, he observed its potential, polished it and also his marketing efforts brought it to iconic status throughout the 20th Century.

History the the Yo-Yo

The establishing of Duncan Toys days to the late 1920s, but the yo-yo chin goes back thousands of years. Though its precise origin is unknown, depictions of human being using yo-yo favor toys showed up in old Greece and also Egypt, and also a associated toy, the Diabolo, to be long known in China. It would certainly later show up in the mid-1600s in the Netherlands and also then in the late 1700s in India, France and also England, where it was called a chucki, a bandalore and a quiz, respectively. It likewise made its means to the unified States, whereby in 1866, James L. Haven and Charles Hettrick received a patent for an “improved bandalore.” one more country whereby the toy was familiar was the Philippines, where it was typically sculpted from a single piece the wood and also called a?yo-yo. Interpreted from the country’s Tagalog language, the name intended “come-come.”

The story that Duncan Toys begins with a indigenous of Vintarilocos Norte, Philippines, named Pedro Flores.


In 1915, at the period of 16, Flores emigrated come the joined States, where number of years later on he attended mountain Francisco’s High college of Commerce. After summary studying legislation in the only Area, he moved south to Santa Barbara, wherein he ended up working a collection of weird jobs. It was there, while employed as a bellboy, the he struggle upon the idea the marketing the toy he had actually played with as a child in the Philippines.

In early 1928, Flores approached some rich Filipino immigrants in Los Angeles come ask because that financial assistance yet was turned down. Undaunted, he chose to walk it alone and on June 9, 1928, created the Yo-Yo manufacturing Company. Within numerous weeks he had made a dozen handmade yo-yos, and by November had actually produced more than 2,000.


Interest in the toy began to spread, and also during the month he won financial backing native James and Daniel stone of Los Angeles. V their help, he had the ability to purchase devices to rise production, and by the spring of 1929 more than 100,000 yo-yos had been made.

The toy’s popularity was now farming rapidly, due generally to yo-yo turn contests i m sorry Flores had started sponsoring in so late 1928. Contestants would shot to watch who might keep a yo-yo walking up and also down the longest, throw and return a yo-yo the farthest, or perform the many “perfect spins” in a five-minute period. The contests soon spread from coastline to coast, raising the popularity and sales of the yo-yo. Through the finish of 1929, Flores to be employing 600 employees at 3 factories and also producing countless yo-yos every day.

Flores’ yo-yos, i beg your pardon cost between 15 cents and also $1.50, integrated a new feature, the slip-string, which permitted the yo-yo come “sleep” or keep spinning as soon as the cable was fully extended. Rivals soon started to appear, and also on July 22, 1930, he trademarked the surname “Flores Yo-Yo,” a truth which to be highlighted in the company’s slogan,?“If it isn’t a Flores, it isn’t a yo-yo.”?Some Flores yo-yos bore the notation the the agency had applied for a patent, however in fact the bandalore patent of 1866 currently covered the an easy design.

Duncan discovers the Yo-Yo

One that Flores’ keenest competitors was Donald F. Duncan, one entrepreneur that had already found success through the good Humor ice cream cream bar, and also who had developed his own yo-yo company in 1929. In 1930, Duncan bought out Flores because that a sum approximated at an ext than $250,000, and also the Donald F. Duncan Yo-Yo agency began offering Flores yo-yos together with its very own models. Pedro Flores to be hired to encourage the certain by sponsoring yo-yo contests about the country, which now featured many brand-new competitive categories.

Duncan was as good, if not much better than Flores at marketing, and his promotional acumen helped an increase the sales of yo-yos also further.

Tapping Hearst to market the Yo-Yo

In 1929, Duncan payment an uninvited visit come the mountain Simeon mansion the newspaper magnate wilhelm Randolph Hearst.

Duncan needed a way to encourage his yo-yo business. He speak his means past a butler and also into a room through Hearst. Hearst snap at his visitor to easily state his business. Duncan thorough a scheme that would sell newspapers and yo-yos.

Under the plan, Hearst’s papers would advertise Duncan-sponsored yo-yo contests in i m sorry youngsters would compete for bicycles and sporting goods. In return, Duncan would require rivals to attain three new subscriptions as entry fee.

Hearst liked the idea, but the public’s acceptance was beyond expectations. A 30-day project in the Philadelphia daily News sold more than?3 million yo-yos.

The company also had actually a team of skilled yo-yo players who traveled the country and gave demonstrations at locations like candy stores to stimulate sales. The men, commonly Filipinos, play up the “exotic” origin of the toy by telling stories that the yo-yos an alleged use together a weapon in the Philippines, as well as carving photos of birds and palm tree on the political parties of the wooden yo-yos kids bought. Various other publicity was achieved through the use of paid celebrities like the youngsters of the “Our Gang” movie shorts in ads, as well by the media’s publication of photographs that captured stars choose Mary Pickford, ice Crosby and also Lou Gehrig playing v yo-yos.

Evolution the Duncan Yo-Yos

During the 1930s, Duncan available a range of various yo-yo designs, including the resolved string “O-Boy” beginners model, the competition Gold Seal version, and even a believe whistling yo-yo.

Distribution was increased internationally throughout the decade, assisted by events like the people Yo-Yo Competition, i m sorry was hosted for the an initial time in London in 1932. The 1930s were a gold era because that the toy, back sales dropped off during world War II.

In 1932, the U.S. Patent Office approve Duncan a trademark for the word “yo-yo.” rivals were required to speak to their products Whirl-A-Gigs, Cheerios or royal Return Tops.

In 1946, Duncan constructed a brand-new yo-yo manufacturing facility in the small town that Luck, Wis., wherein there to be a big supply of hard maple, the main ingredient in the firm’s product. In 1950, the agency introduced a new model, the plastic electrical Yo-Yo, which lit increase courtesy of a battery-powered light inside. It was only briefly produced, but in 1954 Duncan began making a regular production plastic model, the junior-sized Pony Boy.


This yo-yo to be made that polystyrene and had a BB inside that rattled. A short time later, the firm introduced the Imperial, do of tennite plastic, which replicated the size of the standard wood version 77 that had remained in production since 1929. The royal would walk on to come to be the world’s best-selling yo-yo.

Several years later Duncan likewise introduced the wood Butterfly model, which was a traditional yo-yo turned inside out, giving the player a broader slot to record the cable in.


The Duncan playthings Company

In 1957, Donald F. Duncan retired and also gave control of the firm to his boy Donald, Jr. And Jack. By this time, Duncan completely dominated the yo-yo market, producing an approximated 85 percent of the playthings made.


In 1959, the Duncan Toy company began to run its very first television commercials, i m sorry debuted in Philadelphia. After ~ they went on the air, sales there quickly increased from $20,000 come $100,000, and also the agency soon prolonged the project to more cities. A variety of different designs were introduced during this period, including versions shaped choose sports balls and also a planet and multicolor plastic models with embedded glitter. By 1962, yo-yo sales were at an all-time high, and Duncan’s annual revenues climbed to an estimated $7 million native $2 million several years earlier. In 1963, the company sold a record?33 million yo-yos.

In the beforehand 1960s, a national television campaign intoned the slogan,??if the isn’t a Duncan, that isn?t a yo-yo!?

Trademark Troubles

Unfortunately, efforts to difficulty Duncan’s insurance claim to the trademark mounted over the years. In 1965, Duncan’s company, financially drained by legit expenses and overextended by heralding costs, was forced into bankruptcy. That same year, a commonwealth Court of Appeals ruled the the trademark was invalid because the native yo-yo to be the name of the toy itself.

Suddenly, the yo-yo belonged to the world.?

In 1965, what was left the Duncan’s agency was purchased by Flambeau Products, which continues to run Duncan playthings as a subsidiary.

“The mistake we made to be trying come fight the trademark battle,” states Donald F. Duncan, Jr., who in 1988 started his very own yo-yo company, Playmaxx, in Tucson. “We spent thousands trying to store it.”


1928: Pedro Flores starts making yo-yos in Santa Barbara, California.

1929: entrepreneur Donald F. Duncan develops a competitor yo-yo company.

1930: Duncan buys the end Flores and acquires the trademark top top yo-yo name.

1930s: Duncan becomes the leading yo-yo device through the usage of contests and demonstrators.

1946: The firm builds a new yo-yo factory in Luck, Wisconsin.

1954: The an initial line the plastic yo-yos is introduced.

1957: Donald F. Duncan passes control of the agency to his sons Don, Jr. And also Jack.

1963: Yo-yo sales fight a peak; Duncan sell 33 million throughout the year.

1965: The firm loses a lawsuit end yo-yo trademark and also declares bankruptcy.

1968: Flambeau assets Corp. Buys the Duncan name and resumes production.

1970s: Duncan adds brand-new models and also sends out demonstrators as yo-yo sales rebound.

1990: “Return of the Yo-Yo” exhibit tours shopping malls.

1995: A TV advertisement campaign and also a middle-school yo-yo science routine spark a new sales boom.

1997: The agency buys the civil liberties to industry the Wizzzer, the world’s most renowned spin top.

2001: High-tech yo-yo machine Playmaxx, Inc. Is acquired.

Other ventures

Among the other companies Duncan founded are the an excellent Humor frozen treats franchise and a parking meter agency which constrain that industry to this day. Many notable among Duncan’s invention credits is the concept of the premium impetus marketing tactic inside one collects proofs of acquisition (i.e. Boxtops or UPC barcodes) and redeems them for rewards, together as little toys or discount coupons.

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Even though he dealt with plenty of struggles in his career, Duncan’s drive retained him going.?Duncan? is now one of the oldest and best-known toy makers and it’s story is unique: one full of curiosity and also invention that might only be sustained by the uniquely entrepreneurial spirit of America.