The year was 1958 and Wham-O introduced its Hula Hoop. Do you still have yours? I have seen many hanging in garages, collecting dust.
Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin of Wham-O manufactured 42 inch diameter hoops from Marlex plastic. The earliest known advertisement for the “Hula-Hoop by Wham-O” was seen on June 16, 1958, for “The Broadway” chain of department stores in Los Angeles — for sale for $1.98 (equivalent to $20 more than 60 years later).
With giveaways, national marketing and retailing, a fad began in July 1958: 25 million plastic hoops were sold in less than four months, and sales reached more than 100 million units in two years. Carlon Products Corp. was one of the first manufacturers of the hoop. During the 1950s, Carlon produced more than 50,000 hoops per day. Saddled with a glut of unwanted Hula Hoops, Wham-O stopped manufacturing the toy until 1965, when Knerr and Melin came up with a new twist: They inserted ball bearings in the cylinder to make a “shoosh” sound. The hoop was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 1999.
That same year, 1958, saw the Hope Diamond reach the Smithsonian Institution. The distinctive and rare deep blue chiseled gem that weighs 45.5 carats was donated by New York jeweler Harry Winston. He insured it for $1 million (in 1958 dollars) before sending it by registered first-class mail to Washington. (I wonder what the postage was?)
Continuing in 1958, 14-year-old Bobby Fischer won his first U.S. Chess Championship. As the reigning junior and open champion, Fischer became the nation’s first player to hold the triple crown of chess.
He goes on to win every U.S. championship competition he entered: eight in all.
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