|Donald F. Duncan, Sr.|
|Known for||Starting the yo-yo boom of the 1930s|
Donald F. Duncan, Sr. (June 6, 1892 - May 15, 1971) was an American entrepreneur and inventor who is most commonly associated with yo-yos; the commercial success they enjoyed during the 20th century in the United States, and subsequently throughout the world, was due largely to his marketing efforts.
Donald Duncan was the founder of Duncan yo-yos and is often miscredited with invention of the yo-yo (see History of the yo-yo for its origins). He did not invent the yo-yo, nor did Duncan ever hold a patent on the toy, although the name Yo-yo was a trademark of his company until 1965. Claims that Duncan developed the string loop that makes a yo-yo sleep are also false as this was developed by Pedro Flores prior to the creation of the Duncan Yo-yo Company.
In spite of these appropriations, Duncan's marketing tactics are responsible for the widespread popularity of the yo-yo which began in the 1930s. He hired and managed a team of yo-yo demonstrators (most of whom were Filipino immigrants) and toured them at corner stores across the country, regularly holding local yo-yo contests as well as teaching tricks.
In 1965, during an intellectual property case, a federal court of appeals ruled in favor of the Royal Tops Company, asserting that the term Yo-yo, had become a part of common speech. This ruling is now widely considered a miscarriage of justice, and if considered as a valid precedent, would imperil similarly successful trademarks, such as BAND-AID, Q-tips and Kleenex.
Among the other companies he founded are the Good Humor frozen treats franchise and a parking meter company which dominates that industry to this day. Most notable among Duncan's invention credits is the concept of the premium incentive marketing tactic wherein one collects proofs of purchase (i.e. boxtops or UPC barcodes) and redeems them for rewards, such as small toys or discount coupons.
Donald Duncan's sons, Jack and Donald Jr., continued in their father's footsteps and rejuvenated yo-yo sales through TV advertising in the late 1950's and 1960's. Donald Duncan Jr. later went on to invent the ProYo, and started the Playmaxx company.
He eventually died in a car accident in Palm Springs, California on May 15th, 1971.
Duncan's birthday, June 6th, has been immortalized in the United States as National Yo-Yo Day.