The History of the Disc
Contributed by dudley@Eng.Sun.COM (dudley)
The Frisbie Pie Company
In 1871, in the wake of the Civil War, William Russell Frisbie moved from
Bransford, Connecticut, where his father, Russell, had operated a successful
grist mill, to Bridgeport, Connecticut. Hired to manage a new bakery, a branch
of the Olds Baking Company of New Haven, he soon bought it outright and named it
the Frisbie Pie Company (363 Kossuth Street). W.R. died in 1903 and his son,
Joseph P., manned the ovens until his death in 1940. Under his direction the
small company grew from six to two hundred and fifty routes, and shops were
opened in Hartford, Connecticut; Poughkeepsie, New York; and Providence, Rhode
Island. His widow, Marian Rose Frisbie, and long-time plant manager, Joseph J.
Vaughn, baked on until August 1958 and reached a zenith production of 80,000
pies per day in 1956.
In this otherwise simple baking operation we find the origin of the earliest
Frisbee! Now the company offered a variety of bakery goodies, including pies and
cookies, and therein resides the roots of the controversy. For there are two
crusty schools concerning Frisbee's origins: the Pie-Tin School and the Cookie-
Tin School, each camp holding devoutly to its own argument.
The Pie-Tin School. The pie-tin people claim Yale students bought Frisbie's
pies (undoubtedly a treat in themselves) and tossed the prototype all over Eli's
campus. These early throwers would exclaim "Frisbie" to signal the catcher. And
well they might, for a tin Frisbee is something else again to catch.
The Cookie-Tin School. Now the cookie tin people agree on these details save
one: they insist that the true, original prototype was the cookie-tin lid that
held in the goodness of Frisbie's sugar cookies.
Walter Frederick Morrison
Walter Frederick Morrison, the son of the inventor of the automotile
sealed-beam headlight, returned home after World War II, finishing his European
campaign as a prisoner in the now famous Stalag 13. He worked for a while as a
carpenter, but like his father, he had an inventive mind. The time was 1948;
flying saucers from outer space were beginning to capture people's imagination.
Why not turn the concern into a craze? As a Utah youth, he scaled pie tins,
paint-can lids, and the like. He remembered those pleasurable moments and his
mind turned to perfecting the pie tin into a commercial product. First, he
welded a steel ring inside the rim to improve the plate's stability, but without
success. In a surge of serendipity, he adopted the child of the times--plastic.
Plastic was the ideal stuff for Frisbee, It seems impossible to imagine anything
better. And, perhaps, Frisbee is plastic's finest form.
Initially, Morrison used a butyl stearate blend. He recalls: "It worked fine
as long as the sun was up, but then the thing got brittle, and if you didn't
catch it, it would break into a million pieces!
The original Morrison's Flyin' Saucer was his accurate vane model, named for
the six topside curved spoilers (vanes). They were designed to improve lift by
facilitating the Bernoulli principle, which they didn't. Curiously, the spoilers
were on backwards; that is, they would theoretically work only for a
The Pluto Platter
In 1951 Morrison vastly improved his model and the design, unchanged, served
as Wham-O's legendary Pluto Platter. The Pluto Platter is the basic design for
all succeeding Frisbees. Credit Fred Morrison for his farsightedness. The outer
third of the disc, his fundamental design feature, is appropriately named the
The Morrison Pluto Platter has the first true cupola (cabin in Morrison's
terms). The UFO influence colored the design. The cabin had portholes! The
planet ring hinted at an extraterrestrial origin.
Rich Knerr and A.K."Spud" Melin fresh from the University of Southern
California were making slingshots in their fledgling toy company when they first
saw Morrison's flying saucers whizzing around southern California beaches. They
were interested in this exciting simple thing that employed the basic principles
of physics, primary ingredients in all their products to come. In late 1955,
they cornered Morrison while he was hawking his wares and tying up traffic on
Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Just before he was asked to break it up by the
local gendarmerie, the dynamic duo invited his to their San Gabriel factory and
made him a proposition.
Thus, fling saucers landed on the West Coast in San Gabriel, and on January
13, 1957, they began to fly out from a production line that has since sent over
one hundred million sailing all over the globe.
"At first the saucers had trouble catching on," Rich Knerr reminisces, "but
we were confident they were good, so we sprinkled them in different parts of the
country to prime the market." On a trip to the campuses of the Ivy League, Knerr
first heard the term "Frisbee." Harvard students said they'd tossed pie tins
about for years, and called it Frisbie-ing. Knerr liked the terms Frisbie and
Frisbie-ing, so he borrowed them. Having no idea of the historical origins, he
spelled the saucer "Frisbee", phonetically correct, but one vowel away from the
Frisbie Pie Company.
TIMELINE EARLY HISTORY OF the FLYING DISC
William Russel Frisbie moves to Bridgeport, Ct. to manage a new pie
company. Shortly afterward he buys the company, and renames it the Frisbie Pie Company.
More on the early history
Fred Morrison carves first plastic disc from a block of solid tenite.
Fred Morrison manages to make his first disc from buthyl-stearate.
First Premium Flying Disc, the Arcuate Vane with Lil'Abner label appears.
The Pluto Platter is the first mass-produced disc.
Dartmouth University hold tournaments of two-a-side Guts.
The founders of Wham-O, Rick Knerr and "Spud" Meline first see
Fred Morrison's discs.
Wham-O buys the rights to the Frisbee disc from Morrison.
Fred Morrison was awarded a design patent #183626 (30/9) for his
Wham-O produced the "Toy Flying Saucer".
The Healy family organized the "Invitational Frisbee Tournament with Guts as
the event. It was held in Escabana, Michigan, USA.
The Frisbie Pie Bakery closes.
The name "Frisbee" is registered by Wham-O on May 26th. Trademark #679186
In October, the Professional Model Frisbee, designed by Ed Headrick is
introduced by Wham-O.
The International Frisbee Association (IFA) is formed in Los Angeles by Ed
Ed Headrick is awarded the first mechanical patent on a flying disc #3359678
on Nov 1. Headrick assigned the patent, which introduced the "Lines of Headrick,"
to Wham-O for $10.
The Master Model, designed by Ed Headrick is introduced by Wham-O.
US Army spends $400,000 to see if Frisbees can be used as a parachute flare
carrier. The project is closed without success.
IFA puts on the first known disc golf tournament.
Swedish Frisbee Federation (SFF) is formed.
First OCTAD is heldon (a tournament with 8 events).
In Toronto a tournament include "Free-Form Frisbee" is held.
The first air-brush freestyle move is done in competition.
The first World Frisbee Championships are held by Wham-O in the Rose Bowl.
The Japan Frisbee Disc Association is formed.
The first permanent Disc Golf
course is made in Oak Grove, Pasadena by Ed and Ken Headrick. The targets were
made of pipe.
On April 25th the first organized
Ultimate tournament is played.
The Australian FDA is formed.
The first Disc Pole Holes with chains are installed in Oak Grove and La
Mirada by Ken and Ed Headrick..
First nail delay is done during the AFDO in Rochester.
The Austrian FDA is formed.
The Belgian FDA is formed.
The first patent (#4,039,189) is issued on a chain catching device to Ken and
Ed Headrick on August 12th. They form the PDGA
The Finnish FDA is formed.
The Guts Players Association is formed.
The Danish Frisbee Sport Union is formed.
DDC is included in the WFC for
the first time.
Ultimate Players Association is formed in December.
The European Flying Disc Federation (EFDF) is formed.
The United States Disc Sports is formed.
The first World Disc Golf Championship was held in Southern California and
directed by Ed Headrick. Harold Duvall won.
The first World Ultimate Championships are held in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Kransco buys Wham-O. Both IFA and WFC are closed. At that time IFA had
100,000 members in 30 countries.
The the first US Open is held.
Ed Headrick turns PDGA control over to the players.
World Flying Disc Federation is
formed by EFDF.
The first WFDF Disc Golf World championship is held in Helsingborg, Sweden.
Flying disc is demonstrated during the World Games in Karlsruhe, West