Posts Tagged ‘yale frisbee’

From Pie Tins to Frisbees

February 2nd, 2012


Which sport does not need a ball, a net, a bat, not even a referee but nevertheless has gotten a lot of popularity all over the world? It requires seven players on the field and is as exhausting as playing soccer. It’s called a “gentleman’s game” and needs the players to honestly call their own fouls. Here is a giveaway – it’s played with a disc. Yes..! It’s the popular Frisbee that has gotten people from different ages, sexes, and walks of life intensely fanatic about.

But where did the Frisbee come from and how did it evolve into the game played today?


Behind every great breakthrough lies an ordinary man with a brilliant mind—but believe it or not, the Frisbee was invented and improved upon by many different people until it became what we know today.

Frisbie’s Pie Tins

It all began in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the 1870’s when a baker who went by the name of William Russel Frisbie opened a pie company called the Frisbie Baking Company. As a marketing strategy he put his family name on the bottom of the light tin pans which he bought as containers for his homemade pies. The pans were reusable and every time a housewife broke a pan, she would see Frisbie’s name on it and would just buy another of Frisbie’s homemade pies to get a new pan. Clever indeed!

When his pies became popular throughout the region and colleges, so did his tin pans. Yale college students in 1940’s learned that empty pie tins can be tossed in the air and caught, which then provided a means of entertainment for them. Yale even has its own reference for the history of Frisbee, claiming that one undergraduate by the name of Elihu Frisbie got hold of a collection tray in the chapel and tossed it in the air, giving the Yale student credit for being the true inventor of the game. But this story is unsubstantiated, as we know that Frisbie’s bakery was responsible.

Morrison’s Pluto Platter

The development of the Frisbee then proceeded in 1948, when a Los Angeles flying saucer enthusiast by the name of Walter Frederick Morrison created a plastic version of Frisbie’s pie tin which could fly better and tossed with greater accuracy. This saucer was not intended for playing catch at first. Morrison believed in aliens and UFOs. He wanted to make public the possibility of alien life and invasion on earth that he depicted concepts of UFOs in the form of a lightweight disk-shaped toy, known as the Pluto Platter. This has been the basis for designs of all Frisbee discs. The outer third of the Frisbee disc is even called the “Morrison’s Slope”, after this inventor.

Wham-O’s Frisbee

In 1955, owners of a flourishing toy company, Wham-O, in the name of Rich Knerr and Spud Melin, had their eyes on Morrison’s saucer-like disc and thought that it would sell well if exposed and made popular by their company. They bought the rights to Morrison’s design and in 1957. Wham-O was producing more of the product which was then renamed as the “flying saucer”. Morrison was given over a million dollars’ in royalties for his Pluto Platter.

These flying saucers were already selling well in California when Rich Knerr had a promotional tour in one of the colleges. During that time it is said that he happened upon Yale students tossing an empty pie tin. Hearing about their term “frisbie” or “frisbie-ing”, he then renamed the flying saucer in California to “Frisbee”, not knowing the story behind the term – hence the different spelling from the true origin. He then sold the idea of the Frisbee game and sales of the toy rocketed.

Headrick’s Modern Frisbee

In 1964, Ed Headrick added raised ridges and made a more modernized version of the Frisbee which was more stable in flight compared to the previous version. These ridges were called the rings of Headrick.


After creating a more modern disc, Frisbee developed as a sport in 1967. In New Jersey, high school students were the first to ever play the sport known as Ultimate Frisbee. This game is a combination of various sports such as rugby, soccer, and basketball. Over 4 million people play Ultimate Frisbee today, and most of them think of it as more than just a sport but a true social experience among members of different teams. Frisbee is a popular game of catch for people and their dogs, too.

Frisbee Today

In 1994, Mattel Inc purchased the Wham-O Company and for a while had the rights to Frisbee but then Wham-O bought back its rights in 1997. Today, many companies produce Frisbees of different sizes and designs. No matter how modernized the Frisbee has become, it’s amazing to look back and remember the pie makers whose innovative marketing tactics brought this sport to life.