We’ve all seen Frisbees; plastic discs floating through the air. For years, the Frisbee has been a favored pastime when at the beach or at the park. Why? Because it’s simple, it’s fun, it can involve any amount of players from 2 upwards; at any skill set, from a lame slow-paced toss-about to a competitive, high-octane sporting pace. But where did it come from, and how long has it been around?
Where did the idea come from?
A man called Walter Frederick “Fred” Morrison was on a beach with his girlfriend Lucille in 1937. The two had finished a picnic when they started tossing a popcorn can lid to each other. It soon became dented. So, instead, they switched over to a cake pan, which they discovered flew much better, and it was more durable and resistant to denting.
The first sale
A year later, Fred and Lu were on a beach in Santa Monica, California, again tossing a cake pan to one another after a picnic; as had become their hobby. They looked like they were having such a good time that they were approached by somebody else on the beach who offered them 25 cents for the cake pan, so that they could have a turn.
This set an idea running in Fred Morrison’s head – that if someone was willing to pay a quarter for a flying disc, then there must be a market for it that he could tap into.
The couple started a little business on the beaches of L.A. where they sold ‘Flyin’ Cake Pans.’
Morrison flew a P-47 Thunderbolt in Italy in World War Two. This position taught him something of aerodynamics, which would come in useful later in his life. During the war, she was shot down, and was kept for 48 days as a prisoner of war.
Failure to fly
The year after the war ended, Morrison designed the world’s first flying disc, which he called the Whirlo-Way. Fast forward a couple of years and Warren Franscioni, an investor, paid for molding Morrison’s design in plastic. They ditched the name Whirlo-Way, though, and marketed it as the Flyin-Saucer instead (inspired by the Science Fiction comics of the time).
Sadly, the Flyin-Saucer didn’t take off, and Morrison and Franscioni parted ways following poor sales.
The Pluto Platter: Lift-off!
In 1955, deciding they could make another disc more cheaply, Fred and his wife Lu designed the Pluto Platter, which looked much more like the modern discs you see today! They managed to sell the rights to the Wham-O toy company in 1957, who went ahead and started producing the disc and marketing it across the States.
Renaming it to Frisbee
Although Wham-O stuck with the name Pluto Platter at first, they discovered that college students in the Northeast were actually calling it ‘Frisbee,’ so by June 1957, they renamed it and started marketing it as the Frisbee – the brand we know and love today.
Edward Headrick and the sporting market
In 1964, Whamo-O hired Edward Headrick as vice president of marketing, and it was his idea to market the Frisbee as a new sport – and that’s when the sales really took off!
Headrick founded the International Frisbee Association and began establishing tournament standards for the sport. 1972 saw the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto, and many other sporting events followed, all revolving around the flying disc!
When he died, Headrick was cremated and his ashes were cast into memorial Frisbee-shaped discs, which were given out to family and friends.
Hall of Fame
In 1998, the Frisbee took its place in the National Toy Hall of Fame.
There’s your quick history of the Frisbee! For more concise stories behind your favourite toys, take a look at our A Brief History Of Toys section.