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Wham-O Toys Inc.
FounderRichard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin
Headquarters966 Sandhill Ave, Carson, CA 90746
Key people
Todd Richards: President
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 and 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 US$45 million (US$391 million adjusted for inflation to 2018).

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.[9]

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.

In 2018, Wham-O reinvented the classic Frisbee with an all-new Frisbee Sonic. The Frisbee Sonic’s design was based on the intersection between a sphere and a cube. Not only does the Sonic appear cubic in flight, but there are six completely flat surfaces that form the overall shape. The square-like, sine wave shape mimics many things in nature. The alternating twists and turns of the design resemble a bird in flight as it spins through the air. The Sonic looked to revolutionize the common Frisbee design by creating aerodynamic pockets that make catching the Frisbee easier than any flying disc in the market. The Sonic also features self-correct “intelligence” technology that will make the Frisbee fly straight if thrown at an angle. Wham-O look to rejuvenate the love for Frisbee with this newly designed reiteration of classic toy.

In 2018, Wham-O celebrated their 70th anniversary as a company. To commemorate this landmark occasion, Wham-O released a book. entitled “SUPER BOOK – Fantastic Tales From Inside The Fun Factory”, takes readers on a journey through the innovation and imagination that led to the creation of some of the world’s most inventive, beloved toys and games that every family has played with for the last 7 decade. “We are so honored that millions of people throughout the decades have played with our most iconic toys,” says Todd Richards, president of Wham-O. “We are so fortunate to have fans of our products spreading joy everywhere, whether it be the school playground, the backyard, the beach or anywhere their heart desires. For those who have contributed to Wham-O’s success over the years and those who share our love of having fun, this book was written for you.” “This book is a celebration of the company’s lifelong mission to create the most fun, engaging lifestyle outdoor games and products that are enjoyed by people of all ages in every corner of the world,” says Olyvia Pronin, Marketing Director at Wham-O. “It gives us the opportunity to look back on the rich history of Wham-O as we also look forward to the future.” Wham-O is releasing the book as part of the company’s 70th anniversary celebration. Filled with colored photos of toys through the years and other historical information, this book is the perfect companion for toy lovers, young and old, and all who appreciate the interesting stories behind every toy and game families have been playing with for the last 3 generations. Wham-O looks to build on their prolonged success in the toy industry by collaborating with innovators and continuing building new exciting products that would disrupt the routine, common way of spending leisure time.

One such collaboration occurred on January 28, 2019, when Wham-O announced its strategic partnership with Smacircle LMT Ltd. - an innovative company that makes moving around light, fun, and entertaining by creating trendy, compact, easy to carry, products Wham-O and Smacircle jointed their resources to introduce better and smarter solutions for everyday commuters. In June 2019 they will present Smacircle S1 - world’s smallest, lightest and fastest e-bike, that fits right into a backpack and takes seconds to unfold. Smacircle S1 is made out of premium carbon fiber, that makes it durable, but yet very light. Weighting only around 17 pounds, Smacircle S1 can easily carry up to 220 pounds. Its unique design allows Smacircle S1 to fold up in seconds, fitting perfectly into the backpack. “Small Yet Smart” Smacircle S1 is synched to the Smacircle App, that helps to keep track of the e-bike battery life, riding performance, and also allows to lock and unlock the e-bike, keeping its security right at your fingertips. Smacircle S1 was named as a CES 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree in Tech For A Better World product category. It also received a Silver Winner Award at Edison Awards 2018. Smacircle envisions the S1 as a smart solution to experience the daily commute, while saving time in traffic and spending it on yourself.

Other products[edit]

Vintage Blue and white Wham-O Magic Window toy from the 1970s


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.[24] “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."[25]

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.[26]

Wham-O, now in 2018, has been focusing a lot of marketing efforts on both online and offline marketing. The brand is engaged in creating meaningful, lasting experiences that kids and families can share through their toys.

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.[27] At the time, Gardner's company also held the Frisbee advertising account.[27]
  • 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[28]
  • 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[29]
  • 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[30]
  • 2010: Wham-O acquires Sprig Toys Inc.[31]
  • 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.


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  21. ^ "MTU Physics – Alumni – Department History – Exhibits – BS Degrees". Phy.mtu.edu. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  22. ^ "Get Yourself a Magic Window, just like the popular 70's toy for all ages!". Magicwindows.org. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  23. ^ EZ SPIN Foam Frisbee Disc
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  25. ^ "Wham-O — Nothin' But Fun". The Attic. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
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  27. ^ 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.
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  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-27. Retrieved 2009-10-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ Said, Carolyn (2010-03-08). "Nostalgia (and Frisbees) in the air at Wham-O". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-03-08.

External links[edit]