A fad that was very popular in the late 1950's was the Hula Hoop. It is still around today, but has nowhere near the amount of popularity as it did when first invented. It started in 1957, when a visiting Australian mentioned to two young Californians that in Australia, bamboo hoops were used for exercises in gym class. These Californians were Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, founders of the Wham-O Manufacturing Company of San Gabriel.
At the time, their business of slingshots, boomerangs, and the like was running smoothly. As soon as they heard of this new "toy", they began working on making a perfect hula hoop that would be easy to play with. Once they had the first prototype, they tested it on local playgrounds and found that it had the longest "play value" of any toy they had ever produced.
Soon though, they realized what an international success the hula hoop was, and were unable to patent it. This meant that many other versions, such as "Spin-a-hoop" and "Hoop-d-do", were being made and sold by other companies. So in 1958, these companies began competing for their share of international sales of between 60 to 100 million hoops. It is reported that in only five months, this new toy raked in twice the sum disbursed by the State Department for cultural educational exchange programs during the entire year.
Finally, in November, The Wall Street Journal announced that "Hoops have had it." But toy manufacturers who had become 45 million dollars richer, had no reason to complain. The inventors of this crazy new fad, Wham-O, were convinced that the future of toys was in fads, and set out to look for another.
*Return To More Pages
*Return To GGG HomePage