Victoria Torres makes spinning a plate on a stick and a ball on a stick, look easy. The Blue Bell girl was helping out during a performance by street jugglers at Philadelphia City Hall over the holidays.

According to, the art of plate spinning dates back at least 2,000 years to the Western Han Dynasty in China. Here in the West, book illustrations from the early 1300s depict plate spinners.

Fast-forward to the late 1950s, when 2 million Whirley Whirler plastic spinning plate toys were was sold in the United States for all of 98 cents. The toys were made by the Whirley Corp. of St. Louis, Mo., and soon inspired a bunch of knockoffs made by other toy makers looking to cash in on the fad.