History of Flying Disc

‘Just another form of spring fever’ is what one faculty member at Princeton University is said to have called the student pastime of throwing around a Frisbee in 1957. But disc sports had far more staying power than they had predicted.

Agreement between Fred Morrison and Wham-O

The quote seen in a ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine article from May 13 makes the first known published reference to the sport of Frisbee.

Disc sports can be traced back much further than that via many forms. The Ancient Greeks were competing in discus from the 8th century BC. People threw other disc-like objects throughout the centuries. But it wasn’t until the early 20th century, when the love of a food item in the United States combined with the love of throwing disc-like objects, helped make Frisbee more mainstream.

At the end the 19th century the Frisbie family opened a bakery in Connecticut. The business became successful and the Frisbie Pie Company expanded into the U.S. states of New York and Rhode Island. Their best-selling items of pies and cookies really took off. At the peak in 1956 they baked 80,000 pies a day.

Play Catch, Invent Games. What is at the core of our sports and games.

Students from places like nearby Yale University bought Frisbie pies and cookies and reused the tins and lids as discs to throw. With the word ‘Frisbie’ stamped on each pie pan, early throwers often called out ‘frisbie’ to alert the catcher to the disc. This ‘frisbie’ term stuck as a name for the activity, and spread to various other universities including Amherst, Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale, who had also discovered the fun of flinging tin and cardboard disc shaped objects back and forth. This activity developed into what was for some a competitive sport, and regardless of whether they were using ‘Frisbie’ pie pans, or pie pans from other bakeries, or even other disc shaped type of lids or pans, the activity was being called ‘frisbie’. As this term spread to other colleges and universities, it was adopted as the name for their own particular versions of flying disc tossing.

Meanwhile on the West Coast of the U.S., inventor Fred Morrison had been throwing cake tins, and developing them into discs to sell. He created a plastic disc inspired by flying saucers. Outer space gripped people’s imagination at the time and by 1951 he was selling a design called the ‘Pluto Platter’.

A few years later, in 1955, the founders of toy company Wham-O saw Morrison selling his discs in downtown Los Angeles. They got him on board, and by 1957, flying discs were being made on their production line. It’s thought Wham-O founders heard the term ‘Frisbee’ on a tour of Ivy League schools and in June 1957 they officially renamed their products the Wham-O frisbee.

The Wham-O Pluto Platter Frisbee

The products went flying off the shelves - more than one hundred million have since been sold worldwide. Interest in Flying Disc Sports with Frisbees evolved and are now played by more than seven million people in at least 70 countries across the world. Frisbee had become more than a ‘spring fever’ but a sport for all seasons.

Find out more about the disc sports approved by WFDF: http://wfdf.sport/sports/our-sports.

*We've compiled this information with the help of many historians and witnesses to the evolution of disc sports. If you have a different account that you'd like to share please e-mail.

The early years of flying disc play were dominated by the influence of the International Frisbee Association, which was a promotional arm of Wham-O Manufacturing Company, the makers of the patented Frisbee brand flying disc.

Through the efforts of that organization, many of the game designs and procedures were developed. Although most of the IFA activity was focused in the United States, many international affiliates where begun as a result of Wham-O distributorships in various countries.

The concept of an independent world organization for the development and coordination of flying disc play began in 1980 at a meeting of 40 disc organizers in Atlanta, Georgia. The result of that meeting was a loose federation of the existing player groups and the naming of Jim Powers of Philadelphia, PA as the organization's ombudsman. Despite an ambitious beginning, relatively little was accomplished over the following years.

In 1983, a reorganizational meeting, directed by Dan Roddick was held at the U.S. Open Overall Championships in La Mirada, CA. That meeting was the first to have broad international participation and it was agreed that a European effort would be the most effective beginning for WFDF.

Coming out of that meeting, Charlie Mead of the United Kindom Flying Disc Association took the lead by drafting a plan which was distributed world-wide on September 19, 1983. This plan resulted in a formal decision to establish a world-wide association in Örebro, Sweden on July 12, 1984 during the European Overall Championships. This decision was confirmed later the same year by other flying disc countries in Lucern, Switzerland, during the World Ultimate and Guts Championships.

The first WFDF Congress was held in Helsingborg, Sweden in July 1985 where the first set of statutes was adopted and the first board was elected. The first president was Charlie Mead, England, the first secretary Johan Lindgren, Sweden and the first treasurer Brendan Nolan of Ireland.

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This page was first built by Johan Lindgren of Sweden, long-time Secretary of WFDF. We have made a few additions and corrections, but there are obviously very many significant events in disc history that have not yet been included. If you have authortative information about events that you feel should be added or corrections to suggest, please contact us.

1871

William Russel Frisbie moves to Bridgeport, CT to manage a new pie company. Shortly afterward he buys it, renaming it the Frisbie Pie Company.

More on the early history

1947

Fred Morrison carves first plastic disc from a block of solid tenite.

1948

Fred Morrison manages to make his first disc from buthyl-stearate.

First Premium Flying Disc, the Arcuate Vane with Lil'Abner label appears.

1951

The Pluto Platter is the first mass-produced disc.

1954

Dartmouth University hold tournaments of two-a-side Guts.

1955

The founders of Wham-O, Rick Knerr and "Spud" Melin first see Morrison's discs.

1957

Wham-O buys the rights to the Frisbee disc from Morrison.

1958

Fred Morrison was awarded a design patent #183626 (30/9) for his "Flying Saucer."

Wham-O produced the "Toy Flying Saucer".

The Healy family organised the "Invitational Frisbee Tournament with Guts as the event. It was held in Escabana, Michigan, USA.

The Frisbie Pie Bakery is closed.

1959

The name "Frisbee" is registered by Wham-O on May 26th. Trademark #679186

1964

In October, the Professional Model Frisbee, designed by Ed Headrick is introduced by Wham-O.

1966

Ed Headrick is awarded the first mechanical patent on a flying disc #3359678 on Nov 1. Headrick assigned the patent, which introduced the "Lines of Headrick," to Wham-O for $10.

1967

Joel Silver and others at the Columbia high school in Maplewood, NJ, USA invent Ultimate Frisbee.

The International Frisbee Association (IFA), is formed in Los Angeles by "Steady" Ed Headrick.

Mr Malu in Belgium starts his own disc manufacturing.

1968

IFA publishes its grading system and a newsletter.

The IFA Masters Qualifying Meet and Tournament is held on April 27 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA., won by Jay Shelton.

The first Ultimate game is played in Columbia High School.

The Master Model, designed by Ed Headrick is introduced by Wham-O.

1969

US Army invest $400,000 to see if Frisbees can be used as a parachute flare carrier. The project is closed without success.

IFA organises "Berkely VS Southern California Meet". The events were Distance, Accuracy Guts and Golf. The meet was held in Brookside Park, in Pasadena, CA. It is the first known disc golf tournament. Jay Shelton won. The temporary targets were Hula Hoops. Berkely had a pole course at about the same time.

Columbia High School play Ultimate on a parking lot.

1970

The first and second editions of the Ultimate rules are written by Buzzy Hellring, Joel Silver and Jon Hines.

Columbia High beats Milburn High 43-10 in the very first interscholastic game.

1971

New Jersey Frisbee Conference formed with five teams.

1972

On November 6, Rutgers beats Princeton, 29-27 in the first intercollegiate game of ultimate. This was exactly 103 years after the first intercollegiate fotball game, and on the same site (which had been turned into a parking lot), and the same team won by the same margin victory.

1973

United Kingdom FDA is formed.

1974

On September 1st the Swedish Frisbee Federation (SFF) is formed by Johny Gustafson and Mikael Hj�rtsj�.

In May the first OCTAD is organised on Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. The tournament has 8 events. Golf is won by Keith White.

In Toronto, at the 1974 Canadian Open Frisbee Championships, Jim Kenner and Ken Westerfield introduce and win the first freestyle competition

On August 2nd the American Flying Disc Open is organised in Rochester, USA. Kerry Kollmar did the first air-brush. Dan Roddick won golf and got a car as first prize.

In June in Evanston, ILL, the North Western Frisbee Tournament is held. Bruce Konger won Golf.

The first World Frisbee Championships are held by Wham-O in the Rose Bowl. Victor Malafronte and Jo Cahow won overall.

1975

The Japan Frisbee Disc Association is formed.

The first permanent Disc Golf course is made in Oak Grove, Pasadena by Ed and KenHeadrick. The targets were made of pipe.

On April 25th the first organised Ultimate tournament is played. Eight teams participated in Yale in the Intercollegiate Ultimate Frisbee Championships. Rutgers won.

Ultimate is included in the WFC in Rose Bowl, where Tom Kennedy won Golf and Bruce Koger/Jo Cahow overall.

The IFA newsletter and Flying Disc World are merged into Frisbee World.

1976

The Australian FDA is formed.

The first Disc Pole Holes with chains are installed in Oak Grove and La Mirada by Ken and Ed Headrick..

The Yale Ultimate tournament is renamed into the National Ultimate Frisbee Chapionships. Rutgers won again.

Freddie Haft did a nail delay during the AFDO in Rochester.

1977

The Austrian FDA is formed.

The Belgian FDA is formed.

USA is split into the east and west for Ultimate play. Santa Barbara won over Penn State in the final in the Nationals.

The first patent (#4,039,189) is issued on a chain catching device to Ken and Ed Headrick on August 12th. They form the PDGA

1978

The Finnish FDA is formed.

The Guts Players Association is formed.

The Danish Frisbee Sport Union is formed.

DDC is included in the WFC for the first time.

In Sweden an indoor Ultimate game is played for the first time. Skogshyddan played against Halmstad.

1979

Ultimate Players Association is formed i december. Tom Kennedy is elected the first director.

The Nederlandse Frisbie Bond is formed.

The Norwegian Frisbee Forbund is formed on April 17th.

The Federation Francaise de Frisbee is formed.

Frisbee Sport Italia is formed.

First UPA Nationals, held in Stage College, PA, won by Glassboro over the Santa Barbara Condors.

1980

The Swiss Disc Sports is formed.

The first Ultimate European Championship is played in Paris. Finland, England, Sweden finnished first, second and third.

The Individual European Championships are held in Belgium.

1981

The British Ultimate Federation is formed.

The European Flying Disc Federation (EFDF) is formed. Mikael Hjortsjo is elected the first president.

Sweden won both Ultimate and Guts in the European championships in Milano, Italy.

The Individual European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, was won by Klaus Arpia, Finland and Marianne Spiegelhofer, Austria.

Peter Jansson, Sweden won the first European Disc Golf championships in Essen, West Germany.

1982

The United States Disc Sports is formed.

Peter Jansson, SWE won the Individual european championships in Belgium.

Charlie Mead, UK, won the european disc golf championships in England.

The first World Disc Golf Championship was held in Southern California and directed by Ed Headrick. Harold Duvall won.

In the European Ultimate and Guts Championships in Austria, Sweden won all titles except womens ultimate which Finland won.

Peter Spiegelhofer is elected president for EFDF.

1983

The Deutscher Frisbee Sport Verband is formed.

The European Individual Championships in England is won by Christophe Sch�tte, SWE, (Open), Marianne Spiegelhofer, Austria, (Women) and Jacob Wichman, Denmark, (Juniors).

The first World Ultimate Championships are held in Gothenburg, Sweden. Rude Boys, USA won open and Melting Pot, USA, women. Sweden won Guts and juniors ultimate.

The Swedish Frisbee Forbundet gains membership in the national Swedish sports confederation and flying disc play is officially accepted as a sport in Sweden.

Kransco bought Wham-O. Both IFA and WFC are closed. At that time IFA had 100,000 members in 30 countries.

The the first US Open is organised.

Windy City won the UPA nationals.

Ed Headrick turns PDGA control over to the players.

1984

First UPA College Nationals, held at Tufts, won by Stanford over Glassboro.

The individual european championships is organised in �rebro, Sweden. Overall winners are Torsten G–rke, WG (Open), Karin Karlsson, SWE (Women), and Martin Sievers, SWE (Juniors).

During the championships (On July 12th) the World Flying Disc Federation is formed by EFDF. The Swedish association is given the task of getting the organisation going. Charlie Mead is elected president of EFDF.

The ultimate and guts world championships are held in Lucern, Switzerland with Windy City winning ultimate and guts open, Finland, women ultimate (USA participated but outside the actual championship). Sweden won juniors ultimate. The decision to start WFDF is confirmed by the other countries.

Finland changes its name to Finnish Flying Disc Association.

1985

The Jugoslavian FDA is formed.

The first WFDF Disc Golf World championship is held in Helsingborg, Sweden. Sam Ferrans and Tami Pellicane won.

The first WFDF Congress is held and Charlie Mead, England, is elected president, Johan Lindgren, Sweden, secretary and Brendan Nolan, Ireland, treasurer.

The individual European championships are won by Dieter Johansson, Sweden and Barbro L�ngjuth, Sweden. Tami Pellicane,USA, participated and finished first in the women's overall.

In the Ultimate and Guts European championships in Austria, Sweden won three titles and Austria one.

1986

In August the third World Ultimate and Guts championship is held. (Colchester England.) San Fransisco won open and Lady Condors womens. Sweden won juniors and guts.

During the second WFDF Congress, Dan Roddick, USA, is elected new president for WFDF, with Johan Lindgren reelected as secretary and Jacques Doetsch, Belgium elected treasurer.

1987

The first WFDF Overall World Championship is held in Ft Collins, USA. Peter Bowie, New Zealand, won.

The Ultimate Affair tournament, Amherst, MA, with about 80 teams in attendance.

1988

The second WFDF overall is held in San Fransisco and the fourth World Ultimate and Guts championship is held in Leuven, Belgium.

1989

New Zealand FDA is formed.

In Colchester, England the WFDF Overall Championship is held between July 24-30.

In Cologne, West Germany the first World Club Ultimate championship is held.

Flying disc is demonstrated during the World Games in Karlsruhe, West Germany.

1990

The Asociation Venezolana de Ultimate is formed.

In Oslo, Norway the fifth WFDF World Ultimate and Guts championships are held, including masters for the first time.

1991

The second WFDF World Club Ultimate Championships are held in Toronto, Canada.

The WFDF Overall Championships and the WFDF Congress is held in Santa Cruz, CA, USA.

1992

The sixth WFDF World Ultimate and Guts Championships are held in Utsunimoya, Japan.

The WFDF Congress is held at the championships in Utsunimoya on Aug 16th. Robert L Rauch, USA, elected new president for WFDF.

1993

The first WFDF Ultimate championships in the US. Madison organize the third World Club championships between July 24th and 31st.

1994

The seventh WFDF World Ultimate and Guts championships are organized in Colchester England. At the WFDF Congress during the championships Bill Wright is elected new President of WFDF. The Czech Flying Disc Association and the Mexico Flying Disc Association are elected full members of WFDF.

1995

The fourth WFDF Ultimate Club championships are held in Millfield, England.

In August the European Ultimate Championships are held in Fontenay-le-Comte, France. Spain participating for the first time. Sweden won all divisions.

In October WFDF was elected full member of both GAISF (General Assembly of International Sports Fedreations) and IWGA (International World Games Association).