In Which A Tin Pie Pan Morphs Into A Cultural Icon

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Below is a vintage postcard showing the home of the Frisbie Pie Company, located at Kossuth Street on Bridgeport, Connecticut’s East Side:

Frisbie Pie Company - Bridgeport, Connecticut

Frisbie Pie Company – Bridgeport, Connecticut

Below is a photo of a Frisbie pie tin:

Frisbie Pie TIn

Children who lived near the pie company, and students from surrounding colleges, liked to toss the pie tins around as spinning, flying discs.

Pictured in the photo below is a guy named, Walter Frederick Morrison. He wasn’t really a spaceman and that isn’t a Frisbie pie tin that he’s about to toss:

Walter Frederick Morrison

Walter Frederick Morrison

You see, Morrison teamed up with a friend and business partner, Warren Franscioni, to develop the first plastic disc-shaped flying toy called the ‘Flyin’ Saucer’ – ‘Precisely Engineered’ and ‘Aerodynamically Correct’ the PIPCO Flyin Saucer was designed to fly straight, curve, circle, skip, and, best of all, not break.

From The Collection Of Marvin Paul- The PIPCO (Partners In Plastic Company) Flyin Saucer - CIRCA 1948

From The Collection Of Marvin Paul- The PIPCO (Partners In Plastic Company) Flyin Saucer – CIRCA 1948

Flyin Saucer directions Tag found on the bottom of the disc.

Flyin Saucer directions tag found on the underside of the disc. Photo: Della Stallard

Unfortunate circumstances split the Morrison/Franscioni partnership and the early 1950s saw the introduction of two new plastic flying discs: The ‘Space Saucer’ marketed by Bill Robs in college campus bookstores on the East Coast, and the ‘Pluto Platter’ – a Flyin Saucer re-design by Walter Morrison.

Your basic 'Space Saucer' marketed by Bill Rob - early 50s.

Your basic ‘Space Saucer’ marketed by Bill Rob – early 50s. Photo: Park Circle Disc Golf Course,  North Charleston, South Carolina

Walter Morrison's 'Pluto Platter' - the basic design for the flying disc that would become known as the "Frisbee.'

Walter Morrison’s ‘Pluto Platter’ – the basic design for the flying disc that would become known as the ‘Frisbee.’  Photo: Della Stallard

In 1956, a toy company called Wham-O (founded in 1948 by Rich Knerr and Spud Melin) acquired the rights to the ‘Pluto Platter’ and in 1958 the company introduced the Wham-O ‘Frisbee’.

A late 50s Wham-O Frisbee

1958 Wham-O Frisbee

Throughout its history – from the Frisbie pie tin, to the Space Saucer, to the Pluto Platter (with the famous ‘Play Catch – Invent Games’ stamped on the underside), and beyond – the flying saucer toy has captured the interest of playful people who enjoy(ed) the pasttime of flicking a disc into the air and watching it float to the end of its flight. The ‘Frisbie-ing’ of the 1940s developed into campus ‘Frisbie Matches’ and the first ‘International Frisbee Tournament’ of the 50s. In the early 60s an outfit in Chicago named, Copar Company, introduced the ‘Sky Saucer’ complete with a rule book for the games, Sky Croquet and Sky Golf.

Copar Company's Sky Saucer

Copar Company’s ‘Sky Saucer’  Photo: Park Circle Disc Golf Course,  North Charleston, South Carolina

'Sky Croquet' and 'Sky Golf' Instructions included with the Copar Company's "Sky Saucer'.

‘Sky Croquet’ and ‘Sky Golf’ Instructions included with the Copar Company’s ‘Sky Saucer’. Photo: Marvin’s Flying Disc Collection

One could say that the modern age of the flying disc toy began in 1964. That was the year that Wham-O introduced the Frisbee Official Pro Model. Multi-talented Ed Headrick re-designed the Pluto Platter to give it better flight performance and greater distance. The now familiar grooves on the top of the disc were added for greater stability. Today those grooves are known to disc-philes as ‘The Lines of Headrick’. Headrick did include the ‘Morrison Slope’ from the original Pluto Platter to describe the outer third of the Frisbee disc. The Frisbee patent filed by Ed Headrick on behalf of Wham-O was issued in 1967 – U.S. patent 3,359,678.

The 1967 Frisbee patent, filed by Ed Headrick on  behalf of Wham-O. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

The 1967 Flying Saucer patent, filed by Ed Headrick on behalf of Wham-O. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Frisbee Official Pro Model, 1964 - designed by Ed Headrick

Frisbee Official Pro Model, 1964 – designed by Ed Headrick

The flying-saucer references of the 1940s and 50s were removed and the Frisbee image changed from a playful toy novelty, to a more serious piece of sporting equipment. In 1967, Headrick established The International Frisbee Association (IFA) and codified the original standards for various disc sports such as Distance, Freestyle and Guts. In 1976, Headrick became ‘the father of “Disc Golf”‘ when he ‘coined and trademarked the term and standardized the sport by inventing the “Disc Pole Hole” – the first disc golf target to incorporate chains and a basket on a pole.’* Today there are associations that represent all levels of the sport, from recreational to professional. It is estimated that there are four-million recreational players around the world, and the numbers are growing.

'We used to say that Frisbee is really a religion, “Frisbyterians”, we’d call ourselves. When we die, we don’t go to purgatory. We just land up on the roof and lay there.' - Ed Headric

‘We used to say that Frisbee is really a religion, “Frisbyterians”, we’d call ourselves. When we die, we don’t go to purgatory. We just land up on the roof and lay there.’ – Ed Headric

To read more about the life and times of Ed Headrick – including what happened to his cremated remains – click here.

The flying disc continues to have a following to this day. Frisbee knock-offs are commonplace – the plastic platters are even used as novel vehicles for promoting and commemorating diverse corporate and sporting events. Marvin P Paul has one of the largest collection of flying discs in the world with just over 4400 – that number conveys not just how culturally pervasive the discs have become, but also how timeless they are. To check out some of the more curious discs in the ‘mimetic’ section of Marvin’s Flying Disc Collection click here.

The Frisbie Pie Company closed its doors in 1958 – a year after Wham-O dubbed their space-age flying disc, the ‘Frisbee’.  The children who shouted ‘frisbie!’ as an alert for the incoming tin pie plate grew up and embraced a plastic version designed for longer flight and artful tricks.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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