On March 5, 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, was patented. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about the Hula Hoop.
No One Can Claim They Invented the Hula Hoop The hoop has been around far longer than the 1963 patent would indicate. Native Americans used hoops in storytelling dances, and there was a "craze" for wooden and metal hoops in 14th-century England. Ancient Greeks used similar hoops to exercise, so no inventor can legitimately lay claim to it. Earlier hoops were made from wood, woven grasses, bamboo, and even metal. Modern companies produced their versions using plastic and by adding noisemakers or glitter and some hula hoops were even collapsible.
The Company That Made the Hula Hoop Couldn’t Trademark It The Hula Hoop was made by Wham-O, which was founded by Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard P. Knerr. The original Hula Hoops cost only $1.98 and came in bright colors. The company could only patent the name because the hoops themselves had been around for so long. Within four months, the company sold 25 million, but because of overproduction, they only made around $10,000 and were stuck with a warehouse full of the hoops when the initial fad was over.
Hula Hoops Weren't Popular in All Countries Not all countries around the globe were ready for the Hula Hoop craze of the 1960s, and Japan actually banned them, as did Russia. Japan banned their use on city streets because they believed the hip movement needed to rotate the hoop was indecent. In Russia, they were referred to as an example of America’s empty culture. Later, however, Russian circuses and rhythmic gymnasts used hula hooping in their routines, even after the craze died down in other parts of the world.
A Simple Tweak Led to a Comeback Melin and Knee also obtained a patent for a modified version of the Hula Hoop in 1963 called the Shoop-Shoop Hula Hoop. Deciding that a Hula Hoop that made a noise when used was a good idea, they first experimented by adding walnut shells to make a sound. Later, ball bearings were used to replace the walnut shells, and many of today's hoop enthusiasts add extras like decorative tape. Some of today's hoops even contain strings of remote-controlled LED lights. Today, the Hula Hoop is still a popular toy throughout the world.
The Hula Hoop Wasn’t the Company’s First Big Hit Before they released the Hula Hoop, Wham-O released their invention of the Frisbee in 1957, originally marketed with the name Pluto Platter. The idea for the invention came from watching students at Yale University toss back and forth actual pie tins made by the Frisbee Pie Company, which supplied the school with desserts. By advertising this Frisbee pie tin game as a sport, Wham-O made their sales soar.