Having fun with a Frisbee

The Frisbee is a plastic flying disc that has been enjoyed as a recreational toy for people of all ages, whether in the backyard, at the park, or on the beach. They are typically used as a game of catch with the Frisbee spinning through the air when thrown.

Frisbees are made out of a thermoplastic material called polyethylene and are manufactured in a high-speed process called injection molding. While basically designed with the same circular shape and curved edge, called a slope, on the outer third of the disc, Frisbees can be manufactured with slight changes to allow for different flight characteristics. Depending on the desired use, higher lift, longer distance, angular momentum, and more stability in flight are some of the design characteristics that vary on particular models available.1

The origin of the Frisbee name comes from the Frisbie Baking Company (1871-1958) of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The company delivered a variety of bakery goods, including pies and cookies, on 250 routes throughout the northeast, where they came in contact with Ivy League college students who began tossing the empty tins. The tossers would call out “Frisbie” to signal the catcher.2

The inventors of the Frisbee, Walter “Fred” Morrison and Warren Franscioni, had both been pilots during World War II, where Fred had been a prisoner of war in the famous Stalag 13. Before the war, Fred had been selling cake pans on the beach in Santa Monica to be used as flying discs. In 1946 after the war, Fred designed an aerodynamically improved flying disc and called it the Whirlo-Way. By 1948, with many modifications, Fred and Warren produced the first plastic discs and called them Flyin’ Saucers to capitalize on the recent reported UFO sightings in the Pacific Northwest and in Roswell, New Mexico.3

With slow sales and financial difficulties, the partnership split up with Warren going back into the Air Force. As Fred continued to tinker with the flying disc design, he eventually produced the Pluto Platter. The founders of Wham-O, Rich Knerr and Spud Melin, saw Fred demonstrating his flying disc and bought the rights from him in 1957. They changed the name of the product to Frisbee in 1958 after hearing East Coast college students refer to the flying disc as a Frisbie. The Frisbee eventually became Wham-O’s most profitable product.4

The popularity of the Frisbee took off in the 1960s when several sporting events developed. From humble beginnings with high school students in New Jersey, the game of Ultimate Frisbee has become an international sport governed by the World Flying Disc Federation and is played in over 50 countries by an estimated 100,000 players with tournaments played on the local, national, and international levels.5

Ultimate is an exciting, non-contact team sport that mixes features from soccer, basketball, and football. It is played on a large rectangular field, similar to a soccer or football field, with two endzones. With two teams of seven players, a goal is scored when a team completes a pass to a teammate within the opponent’s endzone. Players cannot run with the disc, but must pass to other teammates to advance the play. With no contact allowed, the defenders must try to intercept the Frisbee and block forward play. The game is refereed by the players themselves with a code of conduct, known as “the Spirit of the Game,” even at the World Championship level.6

Another popular game using Frisbees is Disc Golf. Played much like the regular game of golf, the object of the game is to travel the course throwing the Frisbee into elevated metal baskets with as few throws as possible. The Professional Disc Golf Association has over 40,000 members with many permanent disc golf courses found around the world. Disc golf is enjoyed by school children as well as adults and can be played in public parks with a course set up on as few as five acres of land.7

In 2001, flying disc sports first became part of the World Games in Akita, Japan, where both Ultimate and Disc Golf was played.8 Other competitions involving individuals are held locally and worldwide with several different events, such as distance, accuracy, and freestyle.9 Even dogs master catching Frisbees and have their own competitions.

Playing with Frisbees offers children and adults alike the opportunity to improve their fitness with upper and lower body conditioning that has very little risk of injury. Their eye-hand coordination as well as concentration skills are utilized to accurately throw the Frisbee. Players of all abilities regardless of their fitness levels can enjoy playing with Frisbees, which can promote physical exercise and outdoor play.10

  • 1. “Frisbee.” How Products Are Made. Volume 5. < > 28 July 2011.
  • 2. “The Frisbie Pie Company.” What Is < > 28 July 2011.
  • 3. McLellan, Dennis. “Walter Frederick Morrison dies at 90; father of the Frisbee.” Los Angeles Times. < la-me-fred-morrison13-2010feb13,0,7076853.story > 28 July 2011.
  • 4. McMahon, Jeff. “Where the Frisbee First Flew.” The Ultimate Handbook. < > 28 July 2011.
  • 5. “History of Ultimate.” World Flying Disc Federation. < > 28 July 2011.
  • 6. “The game, explained as simply as possible.” What is < > 28 July 2011.
  • 7. “A Guide to Disc Golf from the PDGA.” Professional Disc Golf Association. < > 29 July 2011.
  • 8. Op cit., “History of Ultimate.”
  • 9. “History of Flying Discs.” World Flying Disc Federation. < > 28 July 2011.
  • 10. Op cit., “A Guide to Disc Golf from the PDGA.”