A flying disc spirals away from Earth – fab sculpt. The Italians won Expo 61.
In Which A Tin Pie Pan Morphs Into A Cultural IconStandard
Below is a vintage postcard showing the home of the Frisbie Pie Company, located at Kossuth Street on Bridgeport, Connecticut’s East Side:
Below is a photo of a 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:
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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 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.
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.