Ups and Downs
Some say the yo-yo was invented in Greece 2,500 years ago. They point to a picture on an ancient vase that appears to show a boy playing with a yo-yo.
Others say yo-yos descended from a weapon invented in the Philippines: a rock on a long rope. A hunter in a tree would drop the rock on his prey. If he missed, he'd haul it up and try again.
Many more say the yo-yo probably originated in China.
To end the confusion, yo-yo historians conclude that the toy was invented by different civilizations at different times.
Around 1800, the yo-yo as we know it took France by storm. It came from China. The toy was especially popular among the nobility. Even the king played with one. It was called l'emigrette, which means "to leave the country." French nobles who fled the French Revolution (1789-99) probably brought the toy to England. There it was called the "quiz" or "bandalore."
By 1824, the fad had cooled in Europe. Yo-yos were called a "bygone toy."
In the Philippines, though, yo-yos were still going strong. ("Yo-yo" means "come-come" in Tagalog, the native tongue of the Philippines.)
In 1920, a young Filipino named Pedro Flores moved to America and discovered that no one here had ever played with a yo-yo. He began to carve one-piece wooden yo-yos and sell them.
Donald Duncan spotted Pedro's yo-yos about 1929. The toy looked like "a potato on a string" to him. Mr. Duncan soon bought the Flores Yo-Yo Company.
Duncan yo-yos steadily grew more popular. In 1962, yo-yo sales were sky-high: 45 million sold. That's the all-time record.
In 1984, yo-yos went sky-high again. Astronauts took a yo-yo on the space shuttle. There they discovered that yo-yos need gravity to "sleep."