The Invention and Reinvention of the Plastic Spinning Plate: Part 1

In the juggling world, some props change quite a bit over time while others remain the same. If you compare a modern plastic ring to one of Rudy Horn’s plastic rings from 1945 (shown below), the only real difference is the thickness of the ring.

Rudy Horn’s plastic ring from 1945 (left) next to a modern ring

However, if you examine the evolution of juggling clubs over that same time period, you will see enormous changes in construction, shape, materials, and other characteristics.

The same can be said for diabolos.

 

Like rings, spinning plates with an indented bottom had not changed in a very long time. Ceramic and Metal spinning plates have been used since at least the early 1900s. You can click here to read more about the history of plate spinning. Below are several examples of old metal spinning plates.

Brass spinning plate used by Johnny Lux in the 1950s

Bottom of the Johnny Lux plate

A steel spinning plate used by the Two Linas in the 1940s

Bottom of the Two Linas plate

An aluminum plate made by Homer Stack and used by the Juggling Jacksons

Bottom of the Homer Stack / Juggling Jackson’s plate

In 1958, the first plastic spinning plate, the Whirley Whirler, was introduced. It was manufactured by The Whirley Corporation, who attempted to duplicate the success that the Wham-O Hula-Hoop (1958) had seen. While it never sold as well as the Hula-Hoop, the company did sell 2 million Whirley Whirler plates in their first year. Below is an article detailing how it was created.

The Whirley Whirler came in a variety of colors, including red, yellow, and blue.

It was, for at least a short time, a big hit and received a good amount of press.

Other companies decided that they would try to cash in on the success of the Whirley Whirler by introducing their own, very similar, plastic spinning plates.  In Part 2 of this article, we’ll look at the copycats to the Whirley Whirler, it’s long lasting legacy, and the plastic spinning plate’s recent reinvention.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty three books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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