This Sunday, June 6, is National Yo-Yo Day as well as the birthday of Donald Franklin Duncan Sr.
With a keen eye and mind for business, Duncan Sr. brought yo-yos to the masses and inspired a new pop-culture craze. Here are some highlights of Duncan Sr.’s career that led to the toy’s rightful place in the National Toy Hall of Fame.
Born 1892 in Kansas City, Missouri
Died 1971 in Palm Springs, California
Duncan Sr. founded ice cream company, Good Humor, in the 1920s.
In the mid-1930s, he founded Duncan Parking Meter Corporation, which produced 80% of parking meters during his reign as CEO.
The Yo-Yo Years
Duncan Sr. capitalized on the work of yo-yo pioneer, Pedro Florez, purchasing Florez’s Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in the early 1930s.
He then employed Florez to promote yo-yo play while Duncan Toys Company manufactured and marketed the toy.
Duncan Sr. himself created the slip-string that allowed the yo-yo to hold spins at the end of the string and return upwards with a simple tug.
Duncan Sr. is credited with with the marketing concept of premium incentives, whereby consumers collect proofs-of-purchase to redeem for discounts and rewards.
He partnered with newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst, on a massively successful campaign: Hearst sponsored and advertised yo-yo contests in exchange for competitors providing proof of newspaper subscriptions.
Early Duncan yo-yos are highly coveted among collectors.
The Duncan yo-yo was inducted into The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Duncan Sr. was posthumously inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2011.
National Yo-Yo Day is observed annually on June 6, Duncan Sr.’s birthday.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.