5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Hula-Hoop

The Hula-Hoop became a huge fad across America when it was first marketed by Wham-O in 1958.  The company was so unprepared for the hula hoop's success, that its inventors neglected to patent the hip-swiveling toy until March 5, 1963. To honor the anniversary of its patent, here are 5 things you didn’t know about the Hula Hoop.


ADVERTISEMENT

The Hula-Hoop Wasn't The Company's First Famous Invention The hula-hoop was the brainstorm of Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin, co-founders of the toy company Wham-O.  They men had already scored a big hit with another famous invention — the Frisbee. The idea for that 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. Besides the Hula hoop and the Frisbee, Wham-O also created many other popular toys including the Slip 'N Slide, Super Ball, Silly String, Hacky sack, and the Boogie Board.

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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Wham-O Didn't Make Much Money From Selling the Popular Toy

The Hula Hoop was one of the biggest toy fads in history. It’s estimated that 40 million hoop toys were sold in 1958 alone. But like all fads, the Hula Hoop craze ended abruptly. Rich Knerr, co-founder of WHAM-O said, “It was born in January and dead as a doornail by October.” Knerr and Melin found themselves stuck with an enormous mountain of  inventory with few buyers. Surprisingly enough, they only made $10,000 in profit off of the countrywide craze. This was a direct result of business inexperience and millions of unsold hoops. “We completely lost control,” Mr. Knerr told Forbes magazine in 1982.

A Simple Tweak Led To A Comeback Melin and Knee later 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.

A Chicago Woman Holds A World Record According to Guinness World Records, Jenny Doan made history last year by setting the world record for longest marathon hula-hooping session: 100 hours. The 29-year-old from Chicago attempted this record to raise money and bring awareness for Mental Health America, which provides support to those experiencing mental illness. Doan broke the previous record of 74 hours and 54 minutes set in 2009 by Aaron Hibbs in Columbus, Ohio.