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A frisbee 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 plastic and roughly 20 to 25 centimetres (8 to 10 in) 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, an airfoil in cross-section, allows it to fly by generating lift as it moves through the air. Spinning it imparts a stabilizing gyroscopic force, allowing it to be both aimed and thrown for distance.

A wide range of flying disc variants are available. Those for disc golf are usually smaller but denser and tailored for particular flight profiles to increase/decrease stability and distance. The longest recorded disc throw is by David Wiggins, Jr. with a distance of 338.0 meters.[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; they typically travel significantly farther than any traditional flying disc.

Illuminated discs for play after dark are made of phosphorescent plastic, contain chemiluminescent fluid, or battery-powered LEDs. Others whistle when they reach a certain velocity in flight. In recent years, due to the environmental problems caused by plastic pollution, manufacturers are producing discs with recycled plastic and recycled rubber, for both casual play and competitive disc golf.[2]

The term frisbee is a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company. While used generically in casual conversation to describe all flying discs, this protection results in organized sports such as Ultimate or disc golf having to forgo the word.[3][4]


A flying disc in flight
A flying disc being caught

It is unknown when humans began tossing disc-shaped objects such as seashells or round stones,[5] but throwing the discus was an event in the organized Olympic Games of Ancient Greece. The sport was resurrected and made part of modern track and field games, appearing at levels from high school to the modern Olympics. Modern discs were made of weighted wood, surrounded by a protective metal band, and weighed several pounds.

Fred Morrison discovered a market for a light duty flying disc that could be tossed recreationally in 1938 when he and future wife, Lucile, were offered 25 cents for a cake pan that they were tossing back and forth on a beach near Los Angeles, California.[6] "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.[7]

The Morrisons continued their business until World War II, when Morrison served in the Army Air Force, flying P-47s, and then was a prisoner of war.[7] Mustered out, Morrison sketched a design for an aerodynamically improved flying disc that he called the Whirlo-Way.[6] By 1948, after design modifications and experimentation with several prototypes, Morrison and business partner Warren Franscioni began producing the first plastic discs, renaming them the Flyin-Saucer in the wake of reported unidentified flying object-sightings.[7]

"We worked fairs, demonstrating it," Morrison told the Virginian-Pilot. The two of them once overheard someone saying the pair were using wires to make the discs hover,[7] so they developed a sales pitch: "The Flyin-Saucer is free, but the invisible wire is $1."[8] "That's where we learned we could sell these things," he said, because people were enthusiastic about them.[7]

Morrison and Franscioni ended their partnership in early 1950,[7] and in 1954 Morrison formed his own company, called American Trends, to buy and sell Flyin Saucers, which were by then being made of a flexible polypropylene plastic by Southern California Plastics, the original molder.[6] After learning that he could produce his own disc more cheaply, in 1955 Morrison designed a new model, the Pluto Platter, the archetype of all modern flying discs. He sold the rights to Wham-O on January 23, 1957.[6][a] 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 Northeastern college students were calling the Pluto Platter by that term,[11] which derived from the name of the Connecticut-based pie manufacturer, Frisbie Pie Company,[12] a supplier of pies to Yale University, where students had independently started a campus craze tossing empty pie tins stamped with the company's logo the way Morrison and his wife had in 1937.[7]

In 2007, Morrison told The Press-Enterprise of Riverside.[13][Back in the Fifties] "I thought the name [Frisbee] was a horror. Terrible." But in 1982, Morrison told Forbes magazine that he had received about US$2 million in royalty payments and said: "I wouldn't change the name of it for the world."[13] By 1994, 100 million Frisbees had been sold. It is unknown how many more millions he made after 1982.

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 native Southern Californian Edward "Steady Ed" Headrick , hired in 1964 as Wham-O's new general manager and vice president in charge of marketing. Headrick soon redesigned the Pluto Platter by reworking the mold, mainly to remove the names of the planets, but in the process, fortuitously increasing the rim thickness and mass, creating a more controllable disc that could be thrown more accurately.[14]

With the change in marketing strategy to promote Frisbee use as a new sport sales of the toy skyrocketed. In 1964, the first professional model went on sale. Its new design, patented by Headrick, featured raised ridges (the "Rings of Headrick") that were claimed to stabilize flight.[15]

A memorial disc containing some of the ashes of Ed Headrick. On display at Ripley's Believe it or Not!, London

Headrick, who became known as the father of Frisbee sports,[16] later founded the International Frisbee Association and appointed Dan "Stork" Roddick as its head. Stork began establishing North American Series (NAS) tournament standards for various Frisbee sports, such as Freestyle, Guts, Double Disc Court and Over-all events.[17] Headrick later helped to develop the sport of disc golf by inventing standardized targets called "pole holes",[18][19] that was first played with Frisbees and later with more aerodynamic beveled rim discs. Upon his death, Headrick was cremated, and, as requested by him, his ashes were molded into memorial discs and given to family and close friends[20] and sold to benefit The Ed Headrick Memorial Museum.[21]

Enthusiasts founded the International Frisbee Association in 1967, and the next year, the Frisbee Golf Tournament began in Kalamazoo. Also in 1967, some New Jersey teenagers invented Ultimate Frisbee, a game that remains enthusiastically played today. Still a popular toy as well as a sporting good, the Frisbee was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.[22]

Disc sports[edit]

The IFT guts competitions in Northern Michigan, the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships (1972), Toronto, ON, the Vancouver Open Frisbee Championships (1974), Vancouver, BC, the Octad (1974), New Jersey, the American Flying Disc Open (1974), Rochester, NY and the World Frisbee Championships (1974), Pasadena, CA 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.[23]

Double disc court was invented and introduced in 1974 by Jim Palmeri,[24] 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.[25]

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." 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 Discrafts 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

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 Johnny Appleseeds and 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[edit]


  1. ^ It is often mistakenly reported that the company began producing Frisbees on this date,[9] but production did not actually begin until later in 1957.[10]


  1. ^ "Flying Disc World Records". Retrieved November 13, 2014.
  2. ^ Kristen M. Stanton. "Frisbee Golf Discs Made with Recycled Plastic".
  3. ^ Overview of Trademark Law: Can trademark rights be lost?
  4. ^ Losing Grip on the Frisbee
  5. ^ Jim Palmeri; Phil Kennedy (July 2015). A Chain of Events, The Origin & Evolution of Disc Golf. Wethersfield, CT: Wormhole Publishers. ISBN 978-0-9774517-0-8.
  6. ^ a b c d Kennedy, Phil. "The History of the Frisbee®" (PDF). Wormhole Publishers. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Swift, Earl (May 27, 2007). "50 years later, Frisbee still flying high". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  8. ^ Walsh, Tim (October 2005). Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 138. ISBN 9780740755712.
  9. ^ Latson, Jennifer (January 23, 2015). "How Frisbees Got Off the Ground". Time. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  10. ^ Eisenhood, Charlie (January 23, 2017). "On This Day: Wham-O Acquires Rights to Frisbee in 1957 | Livewire". Ultiworld. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  11. ^ "'Frisbee' Marks 50th Anniversary of Name Change". CTVglobemedia. 2007-06-16. Archived from the original on 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2007-06-19.
  12. ^ "Frisbee Inventor Dies at 90 -". CNN. 2010-02-12. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  13. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (2010-02-13). "Walter Fredrick Morrison Dies at 90; Father of the Frisbee". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
  14. ^ Morrison, Fred; Phil Kennedy (January 2006). Flat Flip Flies Straight! True Origins of the Frisbee. Wethersfield, CT: Wormhole Publishers. ISBN 978-0-9774517-4-6. OCLC 233974379. Fred Morrison: "Headrick had an eye for product design.... The "NEW LOOK" contributed mightily to its phenomenal success.... I've never known what financial arrangements Headrick had with Wham-O. It would have been interesting to know, but knowing wouldn't have changed anything. It was enough to know that under Headrick's guidance our increasing bank account was due to what he was doing."
  15. ^ The First Flight of the Frisbee: The History of the Frisbee
  16. ^ Malafronte, Victor A. (1998). F. Davis Johnson, ed. The Complete Book of Frisbee: The History of the Sport & the First Official Price Guide. Rachel Forbes (illus.). Alameda, Cal.: American Trends Publishing Company. ISBN 0-9663855-2-7. OCLC 39487710.
  17. ^ "History of Frisbee sport and Flying Disc freestyle". Formative Years. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
  18. ^ "Ed Headrick, Designer of the Modern Frisbee, Dies at 78". New York Times. Retrieved 2002-06-14.
  19. ^ "The History of Disc Golf". Retrieved 2011-12-27.
  20. ^ "Edward 'Steady Ed' Headrick" Find A Grave.
  21. ^ Steady Ed Memorial Discs Disc Golf Association
  22. ^ ""Wham-O Frisbee Disc"". Archived from the original on 2015-05-30. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
  23. ^ "History of Frisbee and Flying Disc freestyle". Development of Frisbee and disc sports. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
  24. ^ "Jim Palmeri". Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  25. ^ Perry, Jeff (2011). Disc Dogs! A Beginner's Guide. Hyperflite. ISBN 9780981723747.
  26. ^ DDGA. "History of Disc Golf". Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  27. ^ FPA. "History of Frisbee and Flying Disc Freestyle". Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  28. ^ "Goaltimate Rules". World Goaltimate Association. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  29. ^ Veale, Brandon (July 6, 2012). "Boggio boosted Guts frisbee in 1960s". The Daily Mining Gazette. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
  30. ^ Robison, Daniel (November 2, 2012). "'Trash Can Frisbee' -- a local game -- goes global as KanJam". WBFO 88.7. Retrieved April 20, 2013.
  31. ^ "Special Merit the Johnny Appleseeds" (PDF). USA Ultimate Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  32. ^ "History of Ultimate Frisbee and Disc Sports". Retrieved December 25, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]