By Marie Ramos, Fall 2012 intern
To commemorate October as Filipino American History Month*, we are highlighting a Filipino artifact from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
The Smithsonian houses several thousand Filipino and Filipino American objects, though most are in storage at the Museum Support Center. We have baskets, swords, hats, and “souvenir” items that returning American soldiers brought with them at the turn of the century. We also have an asparagus cutting knife that was used by a Filipino agricultural worker who harvested asparagus near Stockton, California. This month we bring the “Filipino Twirler” into the spotlight, a yo-yo that has been in the Smithsonian collection since 2002.
This wooden yo-yo from the 1950s-1960s was dubbed the “Filipino Twirler.” Although the origins of the yo-yo can be traced to ancient China, interest in the U.S. did not take hold until the late 1920’s. Inspired by the bandalores, a longtime toy in the Philippines, a Filipino immigrant named Pedro Flores mass produced the “yo-yo”. In 1928, he started the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California. With his influence and launch of the yo-yo contest, the toy’s popularity skyrocketed. Flores sold the company and trademark to the Duncan Toys Company for $250,000. The pictured yoyo was produced by Duncan’s rival, Goody Manufacturing Co.
* Filipino American History Month is celebrated in the United States during the month of October commemorating the first recorded arrival of Filipinos in the continental U.S. on October 18, 1587, by way of a Spanish galleon, that docked at what is now Morro Bay, CA. Approximately two hundred years later, the First Filipino settlement in the U.S. was established in St. Malo, Louisiana in 1763. Since then, Filipino Americans have continued to make their mark in the development of American history.