History of the Frisbee Timeline
College students started the flying disc fad by tossing pie tins to each other. By the late-50s, Frisbees were officially trademarked by Wham-O Toys and became popular for all ages.
Published: July 23rd, 2020
People love to have something to play with, and no matter what their age, nothing is more fun than tossing a Frisbee. It's a must-have for college campuses, disc golf tournaments, and playing fetch with your dog.
The Frisbee has been a thing since ancient Greece. Let's get into its history and talk a little bit about pie tins along the way!
The Frisbie Pie Company served their delicious slices in these aluminum tins. The pies were well-loved by Yale students as they could be both study snacks and a fun way to spend time on campus.
Walter "Fred" Morrison and his business partner Warren Franscioni sold "Flyin-Saucers" at beaches, parks, and community fairs. Woolworth’s was one of the first retail stores to sell the product at only $1 each.
Morrison and Franscioni attempted to boost sales by printing characters from the "Little Abner" comic strip on their flying discs. Eventually the comic’s creator sued their company for violating the agreement.
Bill Robes brought competition to the marketplace with Space Saucers. These flying discs didn’t dent as easily or cut up hands when they were tossed through the air.
Wham-O acquired the rights to Morrison’s invention and changed the name to "Frisbee." It didn’t take long for these flying discs to become huge hits, making well over $100 million in their lifetime.
Ed Headrick, an employee at Wham-O, unleashed a new disc with grooves at the top that were referred to as Rings of Headrick. These Frisbees were the first professional models as they improved stability and speed.
Joel Silver and his high school friends started playing Ultimate Frisbee in a parking lot. Five years later, it became an official sport that has since been played in colleges around the country.
Wham-O jumped on the glow-in-the-dark trend with their Fastback Frisbee. At this point, Frisbees were flying off the shelves meaning this was an extra popular gift.
Disc golf was invented by Ed Headrick, the same man who added ridges to the Frisbee. This sport is a lot less athletically intense than Ultimate Frisbee.
Once Frisbee had been established as a sport, popular characters like Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man started showing up on the exterior. This was a great way to promote their shows and movies.
As the Frisbee fad was in full gear, many bands began to advertise with these popular toys. The Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin were a couple that got additional exposure with customized Frisbees.
Companies took notice of how popular Frisbees were with all age groups. Good Year, Oreo, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and many others offered flying discs to promote their respective brands.
Flying discs were crafted from materials other than hard plastic. Polyester became popular as it was easy to fold, had a high tenacity, and was waterproof for the pool and rainy days.
Wham-O Toys was bought out from Mattel, allowing other companies to create Frisbees. Today, an estimated 60 manufacturers exist in the United States.
LED Frisbees emerged as a popular way to host games in the dark. These discs use light-emitting diodes that create a flashy spectacle in the night sky!
The U.S. military reportedly worked on 3D Frisbees that functioned as surveillance cameras. These lethal flyers were meant to detect enemies and fire from upper story locations.
High school students used graphic design software, like Adobe Illustrator and QuarkXPress, to create designs on Frisbees for a class project. This shows how updated technology is still used on classic objects.
Todd Richards, a signed free agent for the San Francisco 49ers, revived the Wham-O name. The new company is located in California and employees have "Frisbee Fridays" in the parking lot.
Germany hosted the Disc Dog Challenge, which featured a number of canines catching Frisbees. Around 60 participants from seven different countries competed in the event.
Throughout time, many other games were developed that used flying discs similar to discuses. These games include:
To this day, discus and some of the sports that followed are still played around the world!
Before there was an official Frisbee, people would spend their days tossing pie tins, cookie lids, or cake pans to one another. William R. Frisbie gave these discs their name in 1871 when he started the Frisbie Pie Company.
Frisbees may have never taken off if it weren't for the Frisbee Pie Company. This bakery was a mere 25-minute drive from Yale, and the students would bring their pies back to campus. Students would play catch with the tins after finishing their slices of pecan pie or lemon meringue. The entire campus could hear them yelling "Frisbie!" as a heads-up call to those passing by, similar to the "Fore!" you hear from golfers.
Who would have thought avoiding study time by tossing a pie tin around would create an entirely new pastime? The Frisbee may never have been created if it wasn't for college students and their love of pie.
Walter "Fred" Morrison and his future wife Lucille threw a cake pan tin around during a Thanksgiving gathering. Shortly after, they were inspired by this idea and went on to create the first official Frisbee in 1947.
AAt the time, the Frisbee wasn't yet known as a "Frisbee." Walter and Lucille marketed them as "Flyin’ Cake Pans" and sold them on the beaches of Santa Monica, California. The cake pans cost only 5 cents, but beach goers were willing to shell out a quarter to be entertained by these high-flyers.
In the 1950s and 60s, Frisbees became super popular. Wham-O Toys stumbled upon Walter Morrison’s flying discs and made an offer to take over his invention.
Morrison handed over all his rights to his invention in exchange for quarterly checks. From there, Wham-O was free to do as they pleased with the flying discs, including marketing them under a new name: the Frisbee.
Before Wham-O was bought out by Mattel they had reached over $100 million in sales and sold an estimated 300 million discs.
In 1967, a high school student in Maplewood, New Jersey named Joel Silver organized the first Ultimate Frisbee team. They challenged the student council to a game in the parking lot. From there, students worked on fine-tuning their game and created an official rulebook.
Five years later, Ultimate Frisbee was recognized around the world. The first college game ever played took place between Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1972. Today, the sport is still growing and becoming more popular. In fact, Ultimate Frisbee was recognized by the Olympic committee in 2015.
Frisbees were all the rage by the mid-1970s and companies took notice. These flying discs were the perfect way to advertise since everyone loved them and they brought excitement to events.
Popular brands like Coca-Cola, Budweiser, and Frosted Flakes printed their logo on custom Frisbees. These were often used or given away at Ultimate Frisbee competitions. The winning team would receive a commemorative Frisbee to take home with them as a souvenir of the event. The disc would be printed with the sponsoring company’s logo.
Everybody loves a good Frisbee. Your kids play with it at the park, adults compete in tournaments, even your dog likes catching one during a game of fetch. There’s really no better way to send your spirits soaring!
Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.
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