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A flying disc with the Wham-O registered trademark "Frisbee" Frisbee 090719.jpg
A flying disc with the Wham-O registered trademark "Frisbee"

A frisbee (pronounced FRIZ-bee), also called a flying disc or simply a disc, is a gliding toy or sporting item that is generally made of injection-molded plastic and roughly 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) in diameter with a pronounced lip. It is used recreationally and competitively for throwing and catching, as in flying disc games. The shape of the disc is an airfoil in cross-section which allows it to fly by reducing the drag and increasing lift as it moves through the air, compared to a flat plate. Spinning the disc imparts a stabilizing gyroscopic force, allowing it to be both aimed with accuracy and thrown for distance.


A wide range is available of flying disc variants. Those for disc golf are usually smaller but denser and tailored for particular flight profiles to increase or decrease stability and distance. The longest recorded disc throw is by David Wiggins Jr. with a distance of 1,109 feet (338 m). [1] Disc dog sports use relatively slow-flying discs made of more pliable material to better resist a dog's bite and prevent injury to the dog. Flying rings are also available which typically travel significantly farther than any traditional flying disc. Illuminated discs are made of phosphorescent plastic or contain chemiluminescent fluid or battery-powered LEDs for play after dark. Others whistle when they reach a certain velocity in flight.

The term frisbee is often used generically to describe all flying discs, but Frisbee is a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company. [2] This protection results in organized sports such as ultimate or disc golf having to forgo use of the word "Frisbee". [3] [4]


A flying disc in flight Person throwing flying disc.jpg
A flying disc in flight
A flying disc being caught Frisbee Catch- Fcb981.jpg
A flying disc being caught

Walter Frederick Morrison and his future wife Lucile had fun tossing a popcorn can lid after a Thanksgiving Day dinner in 1937. They soon discovered a market for a light-duty flying disc when they were offered 25 cents for a cake pan that they were tossing back and forth on a beach near Los Angeles, California, United States. [5] "That got the wheels turning, because you could buy a cake pan for five cents, and if people on the beach were willing to pay a quarter for it, well—there was a business," Morrison told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in 2007. [6]

The Morrisons continued their business until World War II, when Walter served in the Army Air Force flying P-47s, and then was a prisoner of war. [6] After the war, Morrison sketched a design for an aerodynamically improved flying disc that he called the Whirlo-Way, [5] after the famous racehorse. He and business partner Warren Franscioni began producing the first plastic discs by 1948, after design modifications and experimentation with several prototypes. They renamed them the Flyin' Saucer in the wake of reported unidentified flying object sightings. [6]

"We worked fairs, demonstrating it," Morrison told the Virginian-Pilot. The two of them once overheard someone saying that the pair were using wires to make the discs hover, [6] so they developed a sales pitch: "The Flyin' Saucer is free, but the invisible wire is $1." [7] "That's where we learned we could sell these things," he said, because people were enthusiastic about them. [6]

Morrison and Franscioni ended their partnership in early 1950, [6] and Morrison formed his own company in 1954 called American Trends to buy and sell Flyin' Saucers, which were being made of a flexible polypropylene plastic by Southern California Plastics, the original molder. [5] He discovered that he could produce his own disc more cheaply, and he designed a new model in 1955 called the Pluto Platter, the archetype of all modern flying discs. He sold the rights to Wham-O on January 23, 1957. [5] [lower-alpha 1] In 1958, Morrison was awarded U.S. Design Patent D183,626 for his product.

In June 1957, Wham-O co-founders Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin gave the disc the brand name "Frisbee" after learning that college students were calling the Pluto Platter by that term, [10] which was derived from the Connecticut-based pie manufacturer Frisbie Pie Company, [11] a supplier of pies to Yale University, where students had started a campus craze tossing empty pie tins stamped with the company's logo—the way that Morrison and his wife had in 1937. [6]

In November 1957, in what may be the first rock musical ever performed, Anything & Everything, written by visionary pioneer of information technology Ted Nelson (Theodor H. Nelson) when he was a junior at Swarthmore College (with Richard L. Capian), the game of Frisbee (spelled Frisby) is described (perhaps for the first time that the frisbee appeared in a formal manuscript) in the song "Friz Me the Frisby,” as a frisbee was passed among stooges in the audience. The scene was expressly intended as a way to introduce the game to the audience. [12]

The first Frisbee (Professional Model) to be produced as a sport disc with the first disc sport tournament identification, the 1972 Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto Professional Model Frisbee Canadian Open 1972.jpg
The first Frisbee (Professional Model) to be produced as a sport disc with the first disc sport tournament identification, the 1972 Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto

The man behind the Frisbee's success, however, was the Southern Californian Ed Headrick, hired in 1964 as Wham-O's general manager and vice president of marketing. Headrick redesigned the Pluto Platter by reworking the mold, mainly to remove the names of the planets, but fortuitously increasing the rim thickness and mass in the process, creating a more controllable disc that could be thrown more accurately. [13]

Wham-O changed their marketing strategy to promote Frisbee use as a new sport, and sales increased. In 1964, the first professional model went on sale. Headrick patented its design; it featured raised ridges (the "Rings of Headrick") that were claimed to stabilize flight. [14]

A memorial disc containing some of the ashes of Ed Headrick, on display at Ripley's Believe it or Not!, London Headrick Frisbee Ashes 001.jpg
A memorial disc containing some of the ashes of Ed Headrick, on display at Ripley's Believe it or Not!, London

Headrick became known as the father of Frisbee sports; [15] he founded the International Frisbee Association and appointed Dan Roddick as its head. Roddick began establishing North American Series (NAS) tournament standards for various Frisbee sports, such as Freestyle, Guts, Double Disc Court, and overall events. [16] Headrick later helped to develop the sport of disc golf, which was first played with Frisbees and later with more aerodynamic beveled-rim discs, by inventing standardized targets called "pole holes." [17] [18] When Headrick died, he was cremated, and his ashes were molded into memorial discs and given to family and close friends [19] and sold to benefit The Ed Headrick Memorial Museum. [20]

The Frisbee was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998. [21]

Disc sports

The IFT guts competitions in Northern Michigan, the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships (1972), Toronto, Ontario, the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (1974), Vancouver, British Columbia, the Octad (1974), New Jersey, the American Flying Disc Open (1974), Rochester, New York, and the World Frisbee Championships (1974), Pasadena, California, are the earliest Frisbee competitions that presented the Frisbee as a new disc sport. Before these tournaments, the Frisbee was considered a toy and used for recreation. [22]

Double disc court was invented and introduced in 1974 by Jim Palmeri, [23] a sport played with two flying discs and two teams of two players. Each team defends its court and tries to land a flying disc in the opposing court.

Dogs and their human flying disc throwers compete in events such as distance catching and somewhat choreographed freestyle catching. [24]

This is a precision and accuracy sport in which individual players throw a flying disc at a target pole hole. In 1926, In Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada, Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary school chums played a game using metal lids, they called "Tin Lid Golf". [25] In 1976, the game of disc golf was standardized with targets called "pole holes" invented and developed by Wham-O's Ed Headrick. [26]

In 1974, freestyle competition was created and introduced by Ken Westerfield and Discraft's Jim Kenner. Teams of two or three players are judged as they perform a routine that consists of a series of creative throwing and catching techniques set to music. [27]

A half-court disc game derived from ultimate, similar to hot box. The object is to advance the disc on the field of play by passing, and score points by throwing the flying disc to a teammate in a small scoring area. [28]

Man plays KanJam KanJam.jpg
Man plays KanJam

The game of guts was invented by the Healy Brothers in the 1950s and developed at the International Frisbee Tournament (IFT) in Eagle Harbor, Michigan. Two teams of one to five team members stand in parallel lines facing each other across a court and throw flying discs at members of the opposing team. [29]

A patented game scoring points by throwing and deflecting the flying disc and hitting or entering the goal. The game ends when a team scores exactly 21 points or "chogs" the disc for an instant win. [30]

The most widely played disc game began in the late 1960s with Joel Silver and Jared Kass. In the 1970s, it developed as an organized sport with the creation of the Ultimate Players Association by Dan Roddick, Tom Kennedy and Irv Kalb. [31] The object of the game is to advance the disc and score points by eventually passing the disc to a team member in the opposing team's end zone. Players may not run while holding the disc. [32]

See also


  1. It is often mistakenly reported that the company began producing Frisbees on this date, [8] but production did not actually begin until a few months later. [9]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Disc golf</span> Sport in which players attempt to throw a disc into a target

Disc golf, also known as frisbee golf, is a flying disc sport in which players throw a disc at a target; it is played using rules similar to golf. Most disc golf discs are made out of polypropylene plastic, otherwise known as polypropene, which is a thermoplastic polymer resin used in a wide variety of applications. Discs are also made using a variety of other plastic types that are heated and molded into individual discs. The sport is usually played on a course with 9 or 18 holes (baskets). Players complete a hole by throwing a disc from a tee pad or area toward a target, known as a basket, throwing again from where the previous throw landed, until the basket is reached. The baskets are formed by wire with hanging chains above the basket, designed to catch the incoming discs, which then fall into the basket, for a score. Usually, the number of throws a player uses to reach each basket is tallied, and players seek to complete each hole in the lowest number of total throws. Par is the number of strokes an expert player is expected to make for a given hole or a group of holes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ultimate (sport)</span> Team sport played with a thrown disc

Ultimate, originally known as ultimate Frisbee, is a non-contact team sport played with a frisbee flung by hand. Ultimate was developed in 1968 by AJ Gator in Maplewood, New Jersey. Although ultimate resembles many traditional sports in its athletic requirements, it is unlike most sports due to its focus on self-officiating, even at the highest levels of competition. The term Frisbee, often used to generically describe all flying discs, is a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company, and thus the sport is not formally called "ultimate Frisbee", though this name is still in common casual use. Points are scored by passing the disc to a teammate in the opposing end zone. Other basic rules are that players must not take steps while holding the disc, and interceptions, incomplete passes, and passes out of bounds are turnovers. Rain, wind, or occasionally other adversities can make for a testing match with rapid turnovers, heightening the pressure of play.

Guts or disc guts is a disc game inspired by dodgeball, involving teams throwing a flying disc at members of the opposing team.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wham-O</span> American toy company

Wham-O Inc. is an American toy company based in Carson, California, United States. It is known for creating and marketing many popular toys for nearly 70 years, including the Hula hoop, Frisbee, Slip 'N Slide, Super Ball, Trac-Ball, Silly String, Hacky sack, Wham-O Bird Ornithopter and Boogie Board, many of which have become genericized trademarks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Disc dog</span> Dog sport

Disc dog is a dog sport. In disc dog competitions, dogs and their human flying disc throwers compete in events such as distance catching and somewhat choreographed freestyle catching. The sport celebrates the bond between handler and dog, by allowing them to work together. The term "disc" is preferred because "Frisbee" is a trademark for a brand of flying disc.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amateur sports</span> Sport played by non professionals

Amateur sports are sports in which participants engage largely or entirely without remuneration. The distinction is made between amateur sporting participants and professional sporting participants, who are paid for the time they spend competing and training. In the majority of sports which feature professional players, the professionals will participate at a higher standard of play than amateur competitors, as they can train full-time without the stress of having another job. The majority of worldwide sporting participants are amateurs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flying disc freestyle</span>

Flying disc freestyle, also known as freestyle Frisbee in reference to the trademarked brand name, is a sport and performing art characterized by creative, acrobatic, and athletic maneuvers with a flying disc. Freestyle is performed individually or more commonly in groups, both competitively and recreationally.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">World Flying Disc Federation</span> International governing body of flying disc sports

The World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) is the international governing body for flying disc (Frisbee) sports, with responsibility for sanctioning world championship events, establishing uniform rules, setting of standards for and recording of world records. WFDF is a federation of member associations which represent flying disc sports and their athletes in 100 countries. WFDF is an international federation recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a member of the Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF), GAISF, and the International World Games Association (IWGA), and it is a registered not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation in the state of Colorado, U.S.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Walter Frederick Morrison</span> American inventor

Walter Frederick Morrison was an American inventor and entrepreneur, who invented the Frisbee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sedgley Woods</span> Section of the Fairmount Park System in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sedgley Woods is a section of east Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a historical disc golf course site. The site was established in 1977. It has one of the oldest permanent pole-hole disc golf courses. Friends of Sedgley Woods, a volunteer organisation, maintains the grounds, runs monthly tournaments, community out reach programs, and occasional events in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Disc Club and the Professional Disc Golf Association.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flying disc sports</span> Types of sport (developed1948)

Flying disc sports are sports or games played with discs, often called by the trademarked name Frisbees. Ultimate and disc golf are sports with substantial international followings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Monroe (disc golfer)</span>

Tom Monroe is a champion of virtually all flying disc sports, including ultimate, freestyle, field events and especially disc golf.

Bernard "Buzzy" Hellring was a co-creator of Ultimate Frisbee. Along with Joel Silver and Johnny Hines, Hellring created ultimate in the parking lot of Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. and subsequently codified the rules of the sport.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frisbie Pie Company</span> American pie company

The Frisbie Pie Company is an American pie company located in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was founded in 1871 by William Russell Frisbie in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when he bought and renamed a branch of the Olds Baking Company. The company was located on Kossuth Street in Bridgeport's East Side, where workers would toss around the pie tins while on their breaks. The activity made its way to nearby college campuses.

Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC) is an annual Ultimate Frisbee tournament organised by Ultimate Canada and the player association of the city where the championships are held. Until 2016, all divisions were hosted in the same location. Beginning in 2016 the mixed divisions have been held as a separate event.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ultimate Canada</span>

Ultimate Canada is a not-for-profit organization that serves as the governing body of the sport of Ultimate in Canada. It runs the Canadian Ultimate Championships (CUC) and Canadian University Ultimate Championship (CUUC) series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ken Westerfield</span> American frisbee player

Kenneth Ray Westerfield is a pioneering Frisbee disc player.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ed Headrick</span>

Ed Headrick, also known as "Steady" Ed Headrick, was an American toy inventor. Headrick served in combat in the army in WWII and was a deep-sea welder. He is most well known as the father of both the modern-day Frisbee and of the sport and game of disc golf.

Disc golf was first invented in the early 1900s. The first game was held in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926. Ronald Brandon Cain and a group of his Elementary School buddies played a game of throwing tin lids into 4 foot wide circles drawn into sandy patches on their school grounds. They called the game Tin Lid Golf and played on a fairly regular basis. However, after they grew older and went their separate ways, the game came to an end. It was not until the 1970s that modern disc golf would be introduced to Canadians at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto and Vancouver, BC.


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  5. 1 2 3 4 Kennedy, Phil. "The History of the Frisbee" (PDF). Wormhole Publishers. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Swift, Earl (May 27, 2007). "50 years later, Frisbee still flying high". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  7. Walsh, Tim (October 2005). Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 138. ISBN   9780740755712.
  8. Latson, Jennifer (January 23, 2015). "How Frisbees Got Off the Ground". Time . Retrieved January 19, 2019.
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Further reading

  • Stancil E. D. Johnson (1975). Frisbee: A Practitioner's Manual and Definitive Treatise. ISBN   978-0-911104-53-0.
  • Horowitz, Judy; Bloom, Billy (1984). Frisbee: More Than a Game of Catch. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN   978-0-88011-105-8.
  • Norton, Gary, The Official Frisbee Handbook, New York, Toronto, London: Bantam Books, 1972
  • Danna, Mark; Poynter, Dan (1980). Frisbee Players' Handbook. Para Pub. ISBN   978-0-915516-19-3.
  • Tips, Charles; Roddick, Dan (1979). Frisbee, sports and games . Celestial Arts Publishing Company. ISBN   978-0-89087-233-8.
  • Tips, Charles (1977). Frisbee by the Masters. Celestial Arts Publishing Company. ISBN   978-0-89087-142-3.
  • Morrison, Fred; Kennedy, Phil (2006). Flat Flip Flies Straight: True Origins of the Frisbee. ISBN   978-0-9774517-4-6.
  • Lorenz, Ralph (2006). Spinning flight: dynamics of frisbees, boomerangs, samaras, and skipping stones. Springer Verlag. ISBN   978-0-387-30779-4.