History of the Hula Hoop

Family using hula hoops with RV
Family using hula hoops with RV/ Riser/ Getty Images

The hula hoop is an ancient invention; no modern company and no single inventor can claim that they invented the first hula hoop. In fact, the Ancient Greeks often used hooping as a form of exercise.

Older hoops have been made from metal, bamboo, wood, grasses, and even vines. However, modern companies "re-invented" their own versions of the hula hoop using unusual materials, for example; plastic hula hoops with added bits of glitter and noisemakers, and hoops that are collapsible.

Origins of the Name Hula Hoop

Around 1300, hooping came to Great Britain, homemade versions of the toy became very popular. In the early 1800s, British sailors first witnessed hula dancing in the Hawaiian Islands. Hula dancing and hooping look somewhat similar and the name "hula hoop" came together.

Wham-O Trademarks and Patents the Hula Hoop

Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin founded the Wham-O company, which helped popularize another ancient toy, the frisbee.

Knerr and Melin started the Wham-O company from their Los Angeles garage in 1948. The men were marketing a slingshot originally invented for training pet falcons and hawks (it slung meat at the birds). This slingshot was named "Wham-O" because of the sound it made when it hit the target. Wham-O also became the company's name.

Wham-O has become the most successful manufacturer of hula hoops in modern times. They trademarked the name Hula Hoop® and started manufacturing the toy out of the new plastic Marlex in 1958. On May 13, 1959, Arthur Melin applied for a patent for his version of the hula hoop. He received U.S. Patent Number 3,079,728 on March 5, 1963, for a Hoop Toy.

Twenty million Wham-O hula hoops sold for $1.98 in the first six months.

Hula Hoop Trivia

  • Japan once banned the hula hoop because the rotating hip action seems indecent.
  • On June 4, 2005, Australian Kareena Oates set a Guinness world record for hula hooping — with 100 hoops for three full revolutions.
  • 101 hoops were spun by Alesya Goulevich of Belarus on June 11, 2006
  • 105 hoops were spun by Jin Linlin of China on October 28, 2007.
  • The world record for the largest Hula Hoop (by circumference) spun was set by American Ashrita Furman at 51.5 feet on June 1, 2007.
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Bellis, Mary. "History of the Hula Hoop." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/hula-hoop-history-1991893. Bellis, Mary. (2021, February 16). History of the Hula Hoop. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/hula-hoop-history-1991893 Bellis, Mary. "History of the Hula Hoop." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/hula-hoop-history-1991893 (accessed March 31, 2023).