Learn how the Frisbee got its name.
The Frisbee is a flying disc toy made popular by the Wham-O company in the early 1960s. The simple plastic disc is much-loved and has become an icon of pop culture toys, but how did the Frisbee get its name?
There are two stories about the origin of the Frisbee. The first tale involves the Frisbie Pie Company. The Frisbie Pie Company opened its doors in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1871. The pies were very popular and often sold at the colleges in New England. Students discovered that they could throw the tins to each other after eating the pies. Hence, many believe the name Frisbee came from the Frisbie Pie Company.
While this seems like a plausible explanation to the eventual toy's name, there is another story that says the name actually came from an undergrad at Yale University. Legend has it that Elihu Frisbie took a collection plate from the chapel and began flinging it all over campus, making him the inventor of the first flying disc.
Even though the Frisbie Pie Company story is the most widely accepted, the first flying disc toy was actually created by Walter Frederick Morrison. He claimed that he had thrown a popcorn lid to girlfriend Lu in 1937 and came up with the idea of making the toy. He called the disc Whirlo-Way and sketched the plans in 1946; then, he and co-developer/financier Warren Franscioni marketed the disc as the Pipco Flyin-Saucer in 1948. Before the toy could become a success, Morrison was sent to World War II and became a prisoner of war. By the time he returned, his partnership with Franscioni was over, but Morrison wasn’t easily defeated. He produced the Pluto Platter in 1955, hoping to cash in on America’s growing interest in UFOs. This invention was eventually granted a patent and Wham-O began selling the Pluto Platter.
Wham-O founder Richard Knerr decided in 1957 to begin marketing the Pluto Platter under the name of Frisbee after he heard that was what East Coast college students were calling it. Then, in 1964, Wham-O General Manager and Vice President of Marketing Ed Headrick redesigned the Frisbee to make it more controllable when thrown. He patented the new design and Wham-O began producing a professional Frisbee for competitions. Suddenly, Frisbee sales soared and the rest is history. Headrick founded The International Frisbee Association and established standards for the sport. This earned him the nickname “Father of Disc Sports.”
Today, many different models of the Frisbee are made. The Disc Golf version is smaller and denser, allowing it to be thrown in a basket or at a target. The Disc Dog version is of a more pliable material so that it isn’t punctured when being caught by a dog. The Frisbee shaped like a ring can fly further than the traditional Frisbee and there are even Frisbees that glow in the dark for nighttime play. They are extraordinary promotional products!
While Frisbee is the trademarked name of the Wham-O company, but the name is so popular that almost anything that resembles its shape is usually referred to as a “Frisbee.”
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