The yo-yo is believed to have originated in ancient China. It is a small round object consisting of two equally sized discs connected by an axle. The axle has a short string wound around it. To play, the string’s free end is tied around the middle finger, the yo-yo is then grasped and thrown using a smooth motion. As the axle spins within the loop, a gyroscopic effect occurs, allowing time to perform a number of movements known as tricks. The yo-yo requires a great deal of skill and expertise to be played with in this manner. Competitions and championships are held all over the world.
The earliest pictorial reference to the yo-yo is on classical Greek pottery of about 500 BC. It became very popular in Britain and Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries and went by various names – the bandalore, quiz, or Prince of Wales’ toy in Britain and l’emigrette in France, particularly during the Revolution as it was a favourite pastime of the emigre nobles driven from Paris by the Terror.
The modern yo-yo was developed in the Philippines and brought to the United States where it was popularised by Donald Duncan in the 1930s. The yo-yo pictured here was made in Canada by another famous company, Kitchener Buttons Ltd, who made Cheerio yo-yos. There was a renewed interest in the yo-yo during the 1990s when several intelligent versions of the toy were produced requiring less skill to perform tricks.