Neither a modern company nor a single inventor can claim to have invented the first hula hoop. Hooping was often used as a form of exercise by the Ancient Greeks.
In the past, hoops have been made from metal, bamboo, wood, grasses, and even vines. Many modern companies have “re-invented” the hula hoop using unusual materials, for example, plastic hoops with glitter and noisemakers, and collapsible hoops.
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Origins of the Name Hula Hoop
In the 1300s, hooping was introduced to Great Britain, where homemade versions of the toy became very popular. Hawaiian hula dancing was first observed by British sailors in the early 1800s. The name “hula hoop” came from the combination of hula dancing and hooping.
Wham-O Trademarks and Patents the Hula Hoop
Wham-O, founded by Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, helped popularize another ancient toy, the frisbee.
Wham-O was founded in 1948 by Knerr and Melin in their Los Angeles garage. They were marketing a slingshot originally designed for training falcons and hawks. The slingshot was named “Wham-O” because it made a loud sound when it hit the target. The company’s name was also changed to Wham-O.
In modern times, Wham-O has become the most successful manufacturer of hula hoops. In 1958, they trademarked the name Hula Hoop® and started making the toy from the new plastic Marlex. In 1959, Arthur Melin filed a patent application for his version of the hula hoop. The U.S. Patent Office granted him a patent for a hoop toy on March 5, 1963.
The first six months of the year saw the sale of 20 million Wham-O hula hoops for $1.98 each.
Hula Hoop Trivia
- As a result of the rotating hip action of the hula hoop, Japan once banned it.
- Kareena Oates set a Guinness world record for hula hooping on June 4, 2005, with 100 hoops for three full revolutions.
- Alesya Goulevich of Belarus spun 101 hoops on June 11, 2006
- On October 28, 2007, Jin Linlin of China spun 105 hoops.
- The world record for the largest Hula Hoop (by circumference) was set by Ashrita Furman on June 1, 2007.