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History of the Frisbee

The Frisbee's Golden years

It's not just a dog toy, as the Frisbee is enjoyed by millions of people and dogs.The history of the Frisbee is shrouded in controversy. The conception of the design and idea is claimed by many to be a product of their creativity and innovation. Some of the claims are listed with individual recollections and recreations of how the now world famous toy came to realization.

The Frisbie Baking Company, which had been in business from 1871 up until 1958, was established in Bridgeport, Connecticut and sold pies to colleges. It was soon discovered that the empty tins could be used as a source of entertainment, and after the pie was finished students would toss and catch the containers as a game or sport. Yale University claims that the Frisbee was invented on its campus; The school argues that an undergraduate by the name of Elihu Frisbie inadvertently created the idea by grabbing a collection tin and flinging it from the chapel. Historians, however, find the Yale hypothesis highly unlikely.

Another story goes like this: In 1948, a Los Angeles building inspector named Walter Morrison and his partner Warren Franscioni created a plastic version of the Frisbie that could fly further and be aimed more accurately than the tin. Morrison and Franscioni had dissolved their partnership before any real success came from the product. After the split, Morrison produced a plastic model called the Pluto Platter, in attempts to cash in on the growing popularity of UFOs and the interest of the American public. The Pluto Platter has become the basis of design for all Frisbies; the outer third of the disc is even referred to in the patent description as the "Morrison Slope".

Wham-O Toy Company owners, Rich Knerr and Spud Melin, bought the design rights for the Pluto Platter in 1955. Wham-O began producing the discs in 1957 and Morrison received over one million dollars in royalties for the invention.

The word Frisbee, a slight variation of the baking company’s name, was trademarked by Wham-O. Sales increased dramatically after Wham-O marketed it as a sport, and in 1964, the first professional model went on sale. Modifications came about over time. Ed Headrick designed a disc with a band of raised ridges which stabilize flight; these ridges were called the Rings of Headrick.

In 1967, high school students in Maplewood, New Jersey, invented Ultimate Frisbee, a recognized sport that is a cross between football, soccer and basketball. Ten years later, a form of Frisbee golf was introduced, complete with professional playing courses and associations. Wham-O eventually sold the rights of the Frisbee to Mattel, but not before selling over one hundred million units.



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