Hula Hoop: When Wham-O Pulled Off The All-Time Toy Fad In 1958

Dick Clark watches a guest demonstrate the most popular toy in America on American Bandstand in 1958. (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

In July 1958, the hula hoop became the biggest fad the world had ever seen. Manufacturer Wham-O used the still relatively new medium of TV to create a sensation; in addition to advertising, Wham-O was able to get its product onto shows as a cultural phenomenon. Today, we're familiar with product placement and PR tactics, but in 1958 Wham-O's moves were groundbreaking. And the result was a fad that became the classic fad of all fads -- from the Pet Rock to Tickle Me Elmo, every sudden must-have toy or gimmick follows the swirling, momentum-gaining pattern established by the hula hoop.