Biography of Pedro Flores, Father of the Yo-Yo

A yo-yo

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Pedro Flores (April 26, 1896–December 1963) took what had been a Filipino weapon, and later a Filipino toy, and started manufacturing yo-yos in the United States. He soon became a self-made millionaire as the popularity of the toy skyrocketed. Indeed, the word yo-yo is a Tagalog word, the native language of the Philippines, and means "come back."

Fast Facts: Pedro Flores

  • Known For: Introducing the yo-yo toy to the United States.
  • Also Known As: Pedro Edralin Flores
  • Born: April 26, 1896 in Vintarilocos, Philippines
  • Died: December 1963 in Santa Barbara, California
  • Education: University of California, Berkeley, Hastings College of Law
  • Spouse: Edria Myers (m. June 6, 1931–December 1963)
  • Children: Delmar Walters (stepson)
  • Notable Quote: "I am more interested in teaching children to use the yo-yos than I am in manufacturing of yo-yos."

Early Years

Flores was born on April 26, 1895, in Vintarilocos Norte, Philippines. He immigrated with his family to the United States in 1915, later studying law at the University of California Berkeley and the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. Flores Edria Myers on June 6, 1931. They were married until Flores died.

Flores never completed his law degree and began his yo-yo business while working as a bellboy.

From Weapon to Toy

In the Philippines, the yo-yo was a weapon for over 400 years. The weaponized version featured large, sharp edges, and studs and attached to thick, 20-foot ropes for flinging at enemies or prey. Later, a form of the yo-yo, which had originated in China, became a popular toy in Europe and Asia.

Flores had played with these toy yo-yos as a child—they were called bandalores at the time—and felt there might be a market for the toy in the U.S.

Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company

In 1928, Flores started the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara. Flores began making yo-yos by hand for neighborhood children, but soon, James and Daniel Stone of Los Angeles financed machinery for the mass their production. Within a year, Flores was selling 300,000 yo-yos annually. On July 22, 1930, Flores trademarked the term "Yo-Yo."

Eventually, Donald F. Duncan Sr., who founded the Duncan Toy Company in 1929, took notice of the popularity of yo-yos. He bought the rights to the trademark and company from Flores that same year for $750,000.

Promoting the Yo-Yo

Flores stayed active and helped Duncan promote the yo-yo in the early years of the product. Particularly in 1931 and 1932, Flores staged yo-yo contests in various cities around the country. These contests featured yo-yo tricks, which became popular over the years, such as the "sleeper, where the yo-yo seems to spin in place at the end of its string, or the "walk the dog," where the practitioner seemingly gets the yo-yo to "walk/roll" along the ground and then return.

Death

Flores died in December 1963 in Coshocton, Ohio, where he had lived for more than two decades. He is buried in the South Lawn Cemetery in Coshocton.

Legacy

By 1962, Duncan Toys had sold 45 million yo-yos in the U.S. Three years later, the company went bankrupt. Flambeau Plastics Company (today Flambeau Inc.), acquired the rights to the yo-yo, and today it manufactures and sells the 11 different models of yo-yos (as of April 2018) still under the name of the Duncan Toys Company, which operates as a Flambeau subsidiary.

Since Flores brought the toy to the U.S. decades ago, the yo-yo has become deeply ingrained in the culture of the country. For example, in 1968, Abbie Hoffman was cited for contempt of Congress for "walking the dog" in an effort to entertain the House Subcommittee on Un-American Activities that was investigating him, and Richard Nixon made headlines when he used a yo-yo on stage at the opening of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 1974.

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