An eye for an i #277 Children

Flying with the Frisbees

An Ultimate Frisbee team member practising her throws. Inset shows Walter Frederick Morrison promoting his Pluto Platters, the forerunners of Frisbee.

An Ultimate Frisbee team member practising her throws. Inset shows Walter Frederick Morrison promoting his Pluto Platters, the forerunners of Frisbee.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

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In January 1957, a toy company called Wham-O started selling plastic discs as toys. Sold then as “Pluto Platter”, these discs went on to become what is now known world over as Frisbees. A.S.Ganesh throws the disc as he takes you through the history and science behind this ubiquitous playing equipment.

I used to love playing Beach Ultimate. While Ultimate is a sport that is a cross of football, American football and basketball, Beach Ultimate is the same sport that is played, as you must have guessed, in beaches. Endowed with a lengthy coastline that is full of beaches in the city I call home, it was only natural that my love for beaches spilled over to the sport. And in case you are wondering what equipment is required to play this sport, all you need is a Frisbee.

While you might not have played the sport Ultimate, most of you would have surely played with Frisbees at one point of time or another. For this simple playing equipment became a rage in the second half of the 20th century and has continued to enjoy its popularity ever since.

Starts with pies

If we were to trace the history of Frisbees, we would have to start from the second half of the 19th century. For it was in 1871 that William Frisbie set up the Frisbie Pie Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Students who took to these soon started throwing the empty pie tins to each other. Walter Frederick Morrison was one of them and he took to different types of flying discs from the age of 17 in 1937. From tossing the lid of popcorn containers to using cake pans or empty pie tins, Morrison had done them all.

An idea is born

It was during one such instance, when Morrison was playing with Lucile Nay, whom he later went on to marry, that the idea of making it into a business came to him. A stranger, who had been seeing them play, offered a quarter (25 cents) to buy a cake pan with which they were playing, which was ordinarily available for five cents.

He started his business with the “Flyin’ Cake Pan”, improving the design and renaming it several times. “Whirlo-Way” came in next and in 1948 Morrison invented the plastic version of the disc along with Warren Franscioni, calling it the “Flying Saucer”.

Morrison split with Franscioni in the years that followed, but did not give up on the disc. He kept on improving on its design, arriving at the one he sold to Wham-O in 1955. In January 1957, Wham-O mass-produced the disc, calling the new toy “Pluto Platter” in an attempt to sway the UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) crazy public.

Renamed as Frisbee

A year later, Wham-O renamed the toy as the Frisbee disc, accidentally getting the spelling wrong for the pie company. Morrison initially didn’t like this name, but he surely wasn’t going to complain once he realised that the Frisbees were soon flying off the racks.

The rings, which were a band of raised edges on the surface of the disc, were later added to stabilise flight further. And by December 1967, Wham-O patented the design for the modern Frisbee.

Students invent sport

It was in that same year when high school students in New Jersey invented the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. That, along with some aggressive marketing strategies from Wham-O, meant that over 100 million Frisbees were sold by 1977.

With the advent of Frisbee golf, freestyle Frisbee and various other Frisbee competitions, the popularity of the toy hasn’t diminished. While the official Frisbee is now owned by Mattel Toy Manufacturers after they bought it from Wham-O, several other manufacturers now produce these flying discs, that are about 20-25 cm in diameter and have a curved lip.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 6:15:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/flying-with-the-frisbees/article22449014.ece

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