An Idea Is Born
Fred Morrison and his wife Lu often made a game of tossing upside-down cake pans between them on the beach. A stranger saw them playing and offered Fred a quarter for the cake pan. At the time, cake pans only cost five cents, so Morrison realized that there was a profit to be made. He joined up with a business partner, Warren Franscioni, and began to work on creating a plastic version.
Flying Discs & UFOs
Since UFOs were a hot topic at the time, Morrison modelled his first plastic disc after a flying saucer. By 1948, Morrison had created his first product, which he called the “Flyin’ Saucer.” By the 1950s, he had reworked the design again and renamed his toy the “Pluto Platter.” He chose space-themed names in hopes of capitalizing on the UFO craze happening after the 1947 sightings in Roswell, New Mexico.
A strong salesman, Morrison went around to fairs and shows and demonstrated his flying discs to attendees, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that the toy really took off. In 1955, the founders of the Wham-O toy company, Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr, saw Morrison’s flying disc. In 1957, they purchased the rights to Morrison’s toy. Wham-O changed the name to “Frisbee” and began selling the rebranded toy in 1958. Sales skyrocketed, reaching 100 million before Mattel eventually bought out Wham-O.
What's in a Name?
Where did Wham-O get the name Frisbee? It comes from an unlikely source! College students in New England used to toss around pie pans from the Frisbie Baking Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut – similar to the way Morrison and his wife used to toss a cake pan back and forth on the beach. At the time, the company stamped all their pie pans with the phrase, “Frisbie’s Pies.” Melin and Knerr had heard college students using the term “Frisbie” to refer to the cake pans and realized they could use a similar term for their flying discs. They changed the spelling to “Frisbee,” and the toy we know and love today was born!