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The Flores yo-yo was the first yo-yo manufactured in the United States, it's originator was Pedro Flores. Pedro Flores is considered the original yo-yo guru. Mr. Flores was the singular most important person in introducing the word "yo-yo" to the United States. Although the yo-yo as a toy (known as a bandalore) has been used for centuries, even existing in the United States for years prior to Mr. Flores, as one astute observer noted in the late 1920's "we've all done the yo-yo before but we never had a name for it."
Pedro Flores was a native of Vintarilocos Norte, Philippines. He came to the United State in 1915. He attended the High School of Commerce in San Francisco 1919-1920 then he took up the study of Law at the University of California Berkeley and the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.
Flores dropped out of school for reasons unknown and moved to Santa Barbara, California. He worked at odd jobs for years and at the time of starting his yo-yo business he was working as a bellboy.
He developed his vision for the yo-yo's potential when he read about a man selling a ball attached to a rubber band who made a million dollars. He remembered the game yo-yo which was played for hundreds of years in the Philippines and he thought it had a good market possibility in the U.S. Mr. Flores was quoted saying "I do not expect to make a million dollars, I just want to be working for myself. I have been working for other people for practically all my life and I don't like it."
In early 1928 Flores came to Los Angeles and asked some wealthy Philippine for assistance in manufacturing yo-yos. His friends thought him crazy and he returned to Santa Barbara with only his dream. Being a true entrepreneur, at the age of 29, on June 9th 1928, he applied and received a certificate of conducting business for the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara. On June 23, 1928 he made 1 dozen yo-yos by hand and began selling them to neighborhood children. By November of 1928 his company had 2000 yo-yos and he was able to attract two American financiers, James and Daniel Stone of Los Angeles. Now with the ability to produce machine made yo-yos, four months later, over 100,000 yo-yos had been produced. By November of 1929 three factories were making 300,000 yo-yos daily and employing 600 workers. These companies were the Flores and Stone, Los Angeles; The Flores Yo-yo Corporation, Hollywood; and the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company, Santa Barbara.
Flores also inaugurated the yo-yo spinning contest which spread the first yo-yo frenzy in the United States in late 1928 and 1929. The yo-yo was promoted as the Flores Yo-yo "The Wonder Toy" and using a phrase which now familiar with a slight variation "If it isn't Flores it isn't a yo-yo" as the slogan. Although early contests resulted in the spread of the yo-yo fad they were clearly different than the more modern contests. In the initial contests endurance was the main event. The winner was the individual who could keep his or her yo-yo spinning up and down without missing, for the longest duration. Many contests resulted in ties after hours of continuous yo-yoing by stubborn competitors refusing to quit. Frequently, the champion of these endurance events was determined by drawing straws. Other contest categories included the yo-yo thrown farthest with complete return and the largest number of perfect spins in a five minute period. Prizes were also for hand made yo-yos, and yo-yos made out of bicycle wheels and wood barrel tops were not uncommon submissions. Early contests could be found anywhere but on November 22, 1929 the Gates Theater in Portsmouth, Virginia, became the first theater to offer a contest. For the rest of the 20's and 30's theaters became popular sites for contests. Although some Flores yo-yo strings were made out of silk which allowed for less sleep action than later cotton strings. Several different designs of the Flores yo-yo were done. Prices in 1929 ranged from 15 cents to $1.50 each depending on the design and decoration. Flores employed Dorothy Carter as his chief designer of his yo-yos.
Although Pedro Flores was frequently described as the inventor of the yo-yo, Mr. Flores never personally claimed to have invented the yo-yo, and he always mentioned it's past history as a centuries old Philippine game. He was also frequently described as the patent holder of the yo-yo, but yo-yos (Bandalores) prior to Pedro Flores had already been patented. Even though patent applied for and patent pending are often seen on Flores yo-yos this was a technique used to dissuade other toy companies from producing yo-yos. There was no legal patent held for the standard yo-yo by Pedro Flores. He did apply for and receive a trademark for the Flores Yo-yo and this was registered on July 22, 1930. It was shortly after this that Flores sold his interest in the yo-yo factories which were later acquired by the Donald Duncan Yo-yo Company.
At the end of 1929 a true yo-yo craze was going on across the country initially inspired by Flores but new competitors had entered the arena including Don Duncan, Lewis Marx and others. Although Duncan's name is most associated with the popularity of the yo-yo contests, the original yo-yo fire was fueled by Pedro Flores. It is uncertain exactly at what date Duncan Yo-yo Company acquired the Flores Yo-Yo name (probably 1930) but it did have the Flores trade mark legally assigned to it in 1932. For a period of time in the early 1930's Duncan corporation not only sold Duncan Yo-yos but they also sold Flores Yo-yos as well. In very early contests in 1931 either a genuine Flores yo-yo or a genuine Duncan Gold Seal Yo-yo could be used in the competitions.
Pedro Flores was reported to have sold his interest in his yo-yo manufacturing companies for greater than one quarter of a million dollars, which during the depression was a fortune. Mr. Flores was quoted saying "I am more interested in teaching children to use the yo-yos than I am in manufacturing of yo-yos." Flores followed through by becoming one of the key promoters in Duncan's early yo-yo campaigns. Especially during 1931-32, Mr. Flores was instrumental in setting up many of the promotions in the cities where the early Duncan contests were being held. The contest's were vastly changed from the initial contests ran by Flores just two years previously. These contests now required a series of tricks similar to modern day contests with ties being broken by the number of loop the loops completed.
Flores stayed involved with yo-yos most of his life and even after W.W. II he helped Joe Radovan in the establishment of the Chico Yo-yo Company. He also started the Flores Corp. of America in 1954 which briefly produced yo-yo in the 1950's. Although Flores has less name recognition in the general public compared to other yo-yo manufacturing companies it was Flores who introduced the yo-yo craze to America.
American Yo-Yo Association Newsletter, September 1997
Big-Yo: Photo National Yo-Yo Museum
Weighing in at 256 pounds, Big-Yo is the worlds largest working wooden yo-yo. Designged by Tom Kuhn, the yo-yo now resides in Chico, CA.
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