Making appearances in everything from kids’ parties to exercise classes, Hula-Hoops have taken over as the next cool thing. While Hula-Hoops were once used for fitness, hooping has become a form of expression for college students and festival-goers of all ages. While it is hard to believe a world without Hula-Hoops once existed, the magical invention came about in Southern California less than a century ago.
Inspired by a bamboo exercise ring that Australian children played with, Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Kneer invented the plastic Hula-Hoop in 1958, in a family garage in Pasadena. Ten years prior, the University of Southern California graduates co-founded Wham-O to sell a slingshot they had created (the name originated out of the noise the slingshot made when it hit its target). While this initial invention garnered enough attention to keep them in business, their first taste of success came years later.
The duo introduced their first widely popular toy in 1957; the toy was originally marketed as the Pluto Platter in an effort to capitalize on the country’s fascination with UFOs, but the name was eventually changed to Frisbee. Merely a year after this major success, the company invented the modern Hula-Hoop and sold nearly 25 million of them in the first four months alone. Wham-O experienced prolonged periods of success following this initial launch—selling an additional 75 million Hula-Hoops within the first two years and grossing $45 million during this time. Since the invention was performing so well, the duo decided to patent the idea in 1963.
In the years following the invention of both the Frisbee and the Hula-Hoop, Wham-O went on to produce many more lovable creations, including the:
- Slip ‘n’ Slide in 1961
- Superball—which was created by accident and was the inspiration for the Super Bowl name—in 1965
- Boogie Board in 1971
- Hacky Sack in 1983
Wham-O was integral in creating the toys of our childhood and has produced nearly 230 items since its inception 70-plus years ago. While Melin and Kneer sold their company to Mattel in 1994 and the headquarters moved from a Pasadena garage to a Carson office, Wham-O continues to foster the brands that inspire us to let go, have fun, and be a kid again.