Hula-Hoop patented 1963
On this day in 1963, the Hula-Hoop, a hip-swiveling toy that became a huge fad across America when it was first marketed by Wham-O in 1958, is patented by the company’s co-founder, Arthur “Spud” Melin. An estimated 25 million Hula-Hoops were sold in its first four months of production alone.
In 1948, friends Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr founded a company in California to sell a slingshot they created to shoot meat up to falcons they used for hunting. The company’s name, Wham-O, came from the sound the slingshots supposedly made. Wham-O eventually branched out from slingshots, selling boomerangs and other sporting goods. Its first hit toy, a flying plastic disc known as the Frisbee, debuted in 1957. The Frisbee was originally marketed under a different name, the Pluto Platter, in an effort to capitalize on America’s fascination with UFOs.
Melina and Knerr were inspired to develop the Hula-Hoop after they saw a wooden hoop that Australian children twirled around their waists during gym class. Wham-O began producing a plastic version of the hoop, dubbed “Hula” after the hip-gyrating Hawaiian dance of the same name, and demonstrating it on Southern California playgrounds. Hula-Hoop mania took off from there.
The enormous popularity of the Hula-Hoop was short-lived and within a matter of months, the masses were on to the next big thing. However, the Hula-Hoop never faded away completely and still has its fans today. According to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, in April 2004, a performer at the Big Apple Circus in Boston simultaneously spun 100 hoops around her body. Earlier that same year, in January, according to the Guinness World Records, two people in Tokyo, Japan, managed to spin the world’s largest hoop–at 13 feet, 4 inches–around their waists at least three times each.
Following the Hula-Hoop, Wham-O continued to produce a steady stream of wacky and beloved novelty items, including the Superball, Water Wiggle, Silly String, Slip ‘n’ Slide and the Hacky Sack.
(More Events on This Day in History)
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- 1929 David Buick dies
- 1864 John C. Breckinridge assumes command
- 1946 Churchill delivers Iron Curtain speech
- 1969 Jim Morrison is charged with lewd behavior at a Miami concert
- 1966 Jet breaks up near Mt. Fuji
- 1770 The Boston Massacre
- 1815 Innovator of hypnotism dies
- 2006 Jon Stewart hosts 78th annual Academy Awards ceremony
- 1839 Charlotte Bronte declines marriage
- 1966 Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler hits #1 with “Ballad Of The Green Berets”
- 1766 Antonio de Ulloa tries to govern Louisiana
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- 1966 Miller elected executive director of MLB Players Association
- 1964 U.S.A.F. advisory team sent to Laos
- 1971 “Blackhorse” departs South Vietnam
World War I
- 1871 Socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg born
World War II
- 1953 Joseph Stalin dies