Wham-O

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Wham-O Toys Inc.
Private
IndustryToys
Founded1948
FounderRichard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin
Headquarters966 Sandhill Ave, Carson, CA 90746
Key people
Todd Richards: President
Websitewham-o.com
Wham-O Headquarters in Carson, California

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 & Boogie Board.[1]

Corporate history[edit]

Richard Knerr (1925–2008[2]) and Arthur "Spud" Melin (1924–2002[3]), two University of Southern California graduates who had been friends since their teens, were unhappy with their jobs and decided to start their own business. In 1948 they formed the WHAM-O Manufacturing Company in the Knerr family garage in South Pasadena. Their first product was the Wham-O Slingshot, made of ash wood, which Knerr and Melin promoted by holding demonstrations of their own slingshot skills. The name "Wham-O" was inspired by the sound of the slingshot's shot hitting the target.[4] The powerful slingshot was adopted by clubs for competitive target shooting and small game hunting.[5] When they outgrew the garage, Knerr and Melin rented a building on S. Marengo Ave in Alhambra, California; and then, in 1955, moved their manufacturing plant to neighboring San Gabriel, California.

Products and marketing[edit]

A Frisbee made by Wham-O

In 1957, Wham-O, still a fledgling company, took the idea of Australian bamboo "exercise hoops", manufactured them in Marlex, and called their new product the Hula Hoop. (The name had been used since the 18th century, but till then had not been registered as a trademark.) The Hula-Hoop became the biggest toy fad in modern history.[6][7] Twenty-five million were sold in four months, and in two years sales reached more than 100 million.[8] "Hula Hoop mania" continued through the end of 1959, and netted Wham-O $45 million (equivalent to $395 million in 2020[9]).

Shortly thereafter, the company had another huge success with the Frisbee. In 1955 inventor Fred Morrison began marketing a plastic flying disc called the Pluto Platter. He sold the design to Wham-O in 1957. In 1959 Wham-O marketed a slightly modified version of the toy, which they renamed the Frisbee—and once again a Wham-O toy became a common part of life through the 1960s.

In the early 1960s Wham-O created the Super Ball, a high-bouncing ball made of a hard elastomer Polybutadiene alloy, dubbed Zectron, with a 0.92 coefficient of restitution when bounced on hard surfaces. Around 20 million Super Balls were sold that decade, and the NFL named the Super Bowl games after it.[10]

The Frisbee and Hula Hoop created fads. With other products, Wham-O tried to capitalize on existing national trends. In the 1960s they produced a US$119 do-it-yourself bomb shelter cover. In 1962, they sold a limbo dance kit to take advantage of that fad; and in 1975, when the movie Jaws was released, they sold plastic shark teeth.

Many products were not successful. During an African safari in the early 1960s, Melin discovered a species of fish that laid eggs in the mud during Africa's dry season. When the rains came, the eggs hatched and fish emerged overnight. This inspired Melin to create the Instant Fish product, an aquarium kit consisting of some of the fish eggs, and some mud in which to hatch them. Its debut at a New York toy fair made it wildly popular, but the eggs could not be produced fast enough, and the product was dropped.[citation needed]

Other products[edit]

Vintage Blue and white Wham-O Magic Window toy from the 1970s
  • Wham-O Bird Ornithopter toy (1959) sold in a large cardboard box ready to fly. Made of aircraft quality aluminum spars, wood, steel wire and Mylar this toy was brightly painted to resemble a hawk or owl. The retail price for the rubber band powered Wham-O Bird was $3.00 each, (about $24.00 in 2020 money). These were fragile toys so few survive. About 600,000 Wham-O Birds were manufactured. The 1959 Wham-O Bird was one of the first toys to use DuPont's new plastic film covering "Mylar". The DuPont patent number was printed on the Wham-O Bird's Mylar skin.
  • Wheelie Bar (1966) for wheelie bikes, especially well suited for the popular Schwinn Sting-Ray. The packaging design, featuring 1960s icon Rat Fink, was widely reproduced on T-shirts, posters and decals. The television commercial featured Kathryn Minner, the original Little Old Lady from Pasadena.
  • Air Blaster (1965), which shot a puff of air that could blow out a candle at 20 feet[11]
  • Bubble Thing (1988), a flexible plastic strip attached to a wand, which was dipped in soap solution and waved through the air to create giant soap bubbles. Ads claimed it could make bubbles "as long as a bus"
  • Huf'n Puf blowgun that shot soft rubber darts[12]
  • Real (non-toy) crossbows, machetes, boomerangs and throwing knives[13][14]
  • Powermaster .22 caliber single-shot target pistol, sold by mail order (1956)[15], and several other .22 caliber weapons
  • Slip 'N Slide (1961), a carpet-like, water-lubricated sliding surface
  • Water Wiggle (1962)[16], a plastic-enclosed curved nozzle that, when powered by a garden hose, became airborne.
  • Monster Magnet (1964)[17]
  • Super Sneaky Squirtin' Stick (1964)[18]
  • Willie (1964), a furry toy snake[19]
  • Super Stuff (1966)[20]
  • Giant Comics (1967)[21]
  • Silly String (1969)
  • Super Elastic Bubble Plastic (1970)
  • Magic Window (1971), two 30 by 30 centimetres (12 in × 12 in) oval plates of heavy clear plastic, with a narrow channel between them containing "microdium" (glass) crystal sands of varying colors that created complex patterns when shifted. The concept was the work of inventor Roy L. Cloutier, an engineering graduate of Michigan Tech.[22] (In 2012, subsequent owners of the Magic Window patent marketed a modified version of the toy without Wham-O's involvement.[23])
  • Trac-Ball
  • Magic sand (1980), sand coated with a hydrophobic material that caused water to roll off of it rather than being absorbed
  • Roller Racer Sit Skate (1983)
  • Hacky Sack, a footbag design purchased from its inventors in 1983
  • Splatter Up (1990s)
  • EZ SPIN Foam Frisbee Disc (2008)[24], a soft version of the Frisbee that could be used indoors
  • Morey
  • BZ Pro Boards
  • Churchill Swimfins
  • Smacircle world's smallest, lightest e-bike in the world that fits into the backpack
  • Wham-O Frisbee Sonic

Strategy[edit]

Wham-O's initial success was a result of its founders' insight. Knerr and Melin marketed their products directly to kids, including demonstrating their toys at playgrounds. They extensively researched new product ideas, including traveling around the world.[25] “If Spud and I had to say what we contributed,” Knerr said, “it was fun. But I think this country gave us more than we gave it. It gave us the opportunity to do it."[26]

For many years, the company's strategy was to maintain eight to twelve simple, inexpensive products such as Frisbees, Super Balls, and Hula Hoops. New products were developed for tryout periods. Old ones were retired, for a few years or permanently, as their popularity waned. Since the toys were simple and inexpensive, they could be sold by a wide range of retailers, from large Department Stores to five and dime stores.

As Wham-O changed ownership, its new management adjusted this formula to accommodate the changing toy industry, which had increasingly complex toys and fewer distribution channels.

By 2006 Wham-O's product line included several groups of related items using licensed brand names. For example, Sea-Doo is a brand of personal water craft owned by Bombardier; Wham-O makes a Sea-Doo line of small inflatable rafts designed to be towed behind watercraft.

The company's lines are also more complex, and grouped in related categories—for example, the Sea-Doo line (about a dozen products), several Slip 'N Slide variations, and a group of "lawn games".

On January 31, 2011, Wham-O announced an agreement with ICM, the agency representing Atari video games, to represent Wham-O in movies, television, music, and online content based around its toys.[27]

Company timeline[edit]

Frisbee political campaign advertisement designed by San Francisco-based advertising executive Bob Gardner of Gardner Communications as part of U.S. President Gerald Ford's 1976 advertising team and given to Ford at the 1976 Republican National Convention.[28] At the time, Gardner's company also held the Frisbee advertising account.[28]
  • 1948: WHAM-O founded. For about a year in the 1950s, the company markets their sporting goods under the name WAMO. Customers don't care for the change, and it is dropped.
  • 1957: WHAM-O acquires the rights to the Pluto Platter from Fred Morrison and renames it Frisbee.
  • 1958: Hula Hoop introduced[29]
  • 1958: Frisbee sales improve
  • 1961: Slip 'N' Slide introduced
  • 1965: Super Ball introduced
  • 1982: Wham-O purchased by Kransco Group Companies
  • 1994: Mattel buys Wham-O from Kransco
  • 1995: Wham-O buys Aspectus.
  • 1997: Wham-O becomes independent again when an investment group purchases it from Mattel
  • 2002: Founder Arthur "Spud" Melin dies
  • January 2006: Wham-O is sold for ~ US$80 million to Cornerstone Overseas Investment Limited, a Chinese company that owns or controls five factories in China. The same month, Wham-O donates the office files, photographs and films of Dan "Stork" Roddick, Wham-O's director of sports promotion from 1975 to 1994, to the Western Historical Manuscript Collection, as Midwest Disc Sports Collection accession 5828. (WHMC, at the University of Missouri, Columbia, is a joint collection with the State Historical Society of Missouri.)
  • 2008: Founder Richard Knerr dies[30]
  • 2008: Wham-O introduces the EZ Spin Foam Frisbee Disc , a soft foam version of the Frisbee
  • 2009: Wham-O sold to investment firm The Aguilar Group[31]
  • 2010: Wham-O acquires Sprig Toys Inc.[32]
  • 2015: StallionSport Ltd. and InterSport Corp. acquire global rights to Wham-O Inc.
  • 2018: Wham-O partners with Smacircle LMT ltd. to introduce Smacircle S1 – the world’s smallest, lightest, e-bike that fits into a backpack and unfolds in seconds.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Toy Industry News!". Toydirectory.com. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  2. ^ Nelson, By Valerie J. "Richard Knerr, 82; co-founded Wham-O, maker of the Hula Hoop and Frisbee". latimes.com. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  3. ^ Horwell, Veronica (2002-07-06). "Obituary: Arthur Melin". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  4. ^ Wham-O. "History". Archived from the original on 2013-02-18. Retrieved 22 Apr 2011.
  5. ^ Robert Hertzberg (April 1951). "Return of the Giant Killer". Mechanix Illustrated.
  6. ^ Brymer, Chuck (2008). The nature of marketing: marketing to the swarm as well as the herd. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 22.
  7. ^ Olson, James Stuart (2000). Historical dictionary of the 1950s. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 136.
  8. ^ International Directory of Company Histories (Vol.61 ed.). St. James Press. 2004.
  9. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  10. ^ "Super Bowl Owes Its Name to a Bouncy Ball – History in the Headlines". History.com. 2012-02-03. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  11. ^ "The History of Wham-O". Wham-o.com. Archived from the original on 18 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  12. ^ "12 Lesser-Known Wham-O Products You Have to See to Believe". Mental Floss. 2015-08-27. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  13. ^ p. 136 Walsh, Tim Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1 Oct. 2005
  14. ^ p. 52 Popular Science Jan 1957
  15. ^ by B.B. Pelletier (2006-01-13). "Airgun makers that spawned firearms | Air gun blog – Pyramyd Air Report". Pyramydair.com. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  16. ^ "Recall of Wham-O Water Wiggle Toy". Cpsc.gov. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  17. ^ "Monster Super Gorilla Giant Horseshoe Magnet – by Wham-o". Onlinesciencemall.com. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  18. ^ Super Sneaky Squirtin Stick (1978-01-24). "Super Sneaky Squirtin Stick – Trademark #73131837, Owner: WHAM-O". Inventively.com. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  19. ^ p. 163 Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third series 1965
  20. ^ "View topic – Wham-O Super Stuff". OldKC.com. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  21. ^ "RETRO REVIEW: Wham-O Giant Comics #1 (April 1967)". Major Spoilers. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  22. ^ "MTU Physics – Alumni – Department History – Exhibits – BS Degrees". Phy.mtu.edu. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  23. ^ "Get Yourself a Magic Window, just like the popular 70's toy for all ages!". Magicwindows.org. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  24. ^ EZ SPIN Foam Frisbee Disc
  25. ^ "Branding in History:Fad and Brand – Wham-O®". marketingdoctor.tv. April 14, 2008. Archived from the original on February 16, 2009. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  26. ^ "Wham-O — Nothin' But Fun". The Attic. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  27. ^ Kit, Borys. "EXCLUSIVE: ICM Signs Wham-O Toy Company". The Hollywood Reporter.
  28. ^ a b John Jacobs (November 19, 1992). "Ad Executive Tells How Bush "Blew' Election Cites Failure To Come Up with a Coherent Message". San Francisco Examiner. p. A18.
  29. ^ International Directory of Company Histories (Vol.61 ed.). St. James Press. 2004.
  30. ^ "Wham-O co-founder Knerr dies at 82 – San Francisco Business Times". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-27. Retrieved 2009-10-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ Said, Carolyn (2010-03-08). "Nostalgia (and Frisbees) in the air at Wham-O". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-03-08.

External links[edit]