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Hula Hoop History

Ratnashri Dutta Apr 28, 2019
The hula hoop had always been a popular game for children, not only in America but all across the world. Let's check out a bit about its history, so that we know how this popular game originated.
...Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go...
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it...
- Billy Joel, We Didn't Start the Fire
This song is perfect for the people who reintroduced the hula hoop as a popular game for children―Richard Knerr and Arthur 'Spud' Melin. They were not the inventors of hula hoop, but they reintroduced the already-existing hoops to the world.
They made it so popular during the late 1950s, that it was considered to be one of the most significant event during that period. But now the question is, if Knerr and Melin (who was popularly known as Spud) were not its inventors, then who was? What is the real history behind the hula hoop?
Hula hoops are light multicolored plastic rings which are turned or whirled around the hips. These hoops are mainly used for playing different games or for exercising, and are a lot of fun.

The Beginning

The history goes back to the time of ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations. Children used to play a game where they propelled hoops made from grape vines, across the ground, using a stick.
Later, in the 14th century, spinning hoops or hooping, made out of sticks and grass became popular in England. However, they had to be banned because the British started blaming this hoop game for heart attacks and back disorders.
Later on, Eskimos used these hoops for both practical purposes as well as for fun. They rolled hoops while they spun and used them to teach their children harpooning and hunting. Native Indians taught accuracy in shooting arrows using the hoop, while on the other hand, the Lakota Indian's hoop dance is still famous today.
In the early 19th century, spinning hoops got its name hula hoops, when some soldiers visiting the Hawaiian Islands noticed the similarities between Hula dancing and tripping hoops. Thus, this was the beginning of the hula hoops.

The Rise

Forward to the 20th century. In 1957, founders of the Wham-O toy company, Richard Knerr and Arthur 'Spud' Melin got the idea of reinventing the hula hoops when they were in Australia. Children there used to twirl bamboo hoops around their waists in the gym class. That gave them the idea of making the same using durable plastic.
But unfortunately for them, they could not patent their new toy, as it was already in existence. So, the company had to fight the other manufactures for sales. Ultimately, they trademarked the name 'hula hoops'.
In 1958, they released the new toy, and over a span of two years they sold over nearly 100 million hula hoops. That's when Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire", referenced the sale of the millionth hula hoop as one of the important events in 1959.
However, in the late 1950s, Japan said that the hip rotation which was needed to move the hoops was obscene. Hence, they banned it in their country. Russia too stopped hula hoops in their country, as these hoops represented the 'emptiness of American culture.'
Still, in 1983, the company relaunched its products for the third time in Europe, and held competitions in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Record Breaking Facts

  • Aaron Hibbs, an American, set the Guinness world record for hula hooping for 74 hours and 54 minutes, in 2009, with a single hoop.
  • Alesya Gulevich holds the Guiness record for simultaneously spinning most Hula Hoops at once.
  • American Ashrita Furman set the record in 2010 for spinning the largest hula hoop. The diameter of the hoop was 5.04 m (16.5 ft).
Nowadays, with the coming of mobile phones and video games, the craze for hula hoops is slowly fading away. But they are still available in stores. In fact, some improved versions of the hula hoops have also been introduced, which are filled with glitter, water, noisemakers, etc,, which makes hula hooping even more exciting.
Go grab one of your own, and learn some hula hoop tricks. Be a master of the art of hula hooping, and just enjoy yourself.