At first glance in the park or at the beach, you may confuse it for an UFO (unidentified flying object) and rush home thinking the Martians have really landed from outer space! Soon it becomes clear that the “spacecraft” is actually a harmless toy — a colourful Frisbee, and the creature from outer space is the boy next door!
Today, almost all of us have seen one or sent a Frisbee gliding through air. We have seen dogs chase it and leap to catch these flying discs. The toy has proved enormously popular and there are Frisbee throwing competitions held in America.
The flying disc was named Frisbee after a 19th century Connecticut Yankee called William Russell Frisbie, a baker by profession. In 1871, he was hired to manage a branch of the Olds Baking Company.
He soon bought it outright and named it the Frisbie Pie Company. It offered a variety of baked goodies, including pies and cookies.
The pies and cookies were packed in round tin containers and sold to the students of Yale University, nearby. After eating the pies, the students would have fun tossing the round tins in air.
The tin throwing craze would have died but for the shrewd sense of one man: Walter Frederick Morrison from Utah. Morrison had served in the World War II.
Like many people during the 1930s and 1940s, who claimed to have seen blinking lights and flying saucer-like objects from outer space, called UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects), Morrison, too, was bitten by the UFO bug.
This craze had reached its peak in 1938 when a science fiction story by HG Wells was dramatised on radio by an actor called Orson Welles.
Called the ‘War of the Worlds’ the radio play, aired in New York, made the fiction seem a reality by announcing that little green men from planet Mars had indeed invaded the earth. Listeners who did not know that it was a play thought it was the latest news and ran out in the streets in fear.
Morrison was smart enough to think of cashing in on this flying saucer craze. He took lids of cans and welded a steel ring inside the rim to improve the plate’s stability. But this wasn’t very successful.
In 1951, Morrison improved upon his model and the design. As it was to look like an UFO, he redesigned it with small portholes to give it a realistic touch.
In California, Rich Knerr and A.K. Melin, who had started a little toy company called Wham-O saw Morrison’s flying saucers being flown on the beaches. In 1955, they bought over Morrison’s flying saucer.
In 1957, the company introduced it in the market under the name Pluto Platter, inspired no doubt by the UFO craze. In 1958, while on a trip to Yale, Knerr heard the words “Frisbie” and “Frisbie-ing” as well as the story of Yale college students throwing pie tins. Therefore he decided to call Pluto Platter by the new name of Frisbie.
Frisbie, thus became a registered trademark for the plastic disc.
The Frisbee has glided a long way from its pie-tin days. Today it is a fun game played by millions. To have fun, the toy just needs two arms – one to throw and one to catch, not necessarily your own.