How Pies Started the Game of Frisbee

Who hasn’t played Frisbee at least once or twice?

Frisbee has become a great American past time, with ultimate Frisbee leagues popping up all over the country in the 1970s. But, most of us have the more casual experience of simply playing Frisbee in the backyard with the family at a relaxed pace. These plastic disks weren’t just created from a random idea. Instead the sport was a sort of ad hoc creation since the first Frisbee’s were actually pie pans- but not just any pie pans.

pecan pie in pan
Via: Keighla Exum/Unplsash

The Pie That Started It All

In the 1870s a Civil War veteran named William Russell Frisbie opened a bakery in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His pies were well liked locally and his son Joseph expanded the business after his death, selling pies in tins emblazoned with the family name.

These pie tins really stacked up Yale University, which was a major purchaser of the pies for their cafeterias. Students would take the upside down pie tins and fling them across the campus, yelling “Frisbie” as a warning to others nearby. Soon this turned into a game, something which was played happily on campus from then on and was soon played at other Ivy League colleges as well. By some accounts it was actually at Middlebury College that the first pie pans were thrown by students.

Frisbie pie pan
Via: Liz West/Flickr

By the 1930s it was an established pastime on many campuses and by the 1950s people outside of the worlds of pie and academia were looking for ways to cash in on this happy accident.

The Toy Comes to Life

The first plastic “Frisbee” was the Pluto Platter, invented by Air Force veteran Walter Frederick Morrison who had served in World War II. He was inspired by tossing a popcorn tin lid with his wife to create a toy that would fly in the same manner. He sold the rights to his plastic invention in 1957 to a company called Wham-o, a name that is well known to both past and present children.

They have produced such stand-out toys over the years as the Hula Hoop, Silly String, and Super Ball, as well as the Hackey Sack and the Slip ‘n’ Slide. Getting the rights to this simple plastic disk was a major step in building the company up and making them leaders in the market of kinetic toys. But, it was the name Frisbee, a take on the pies that some remembered from the pies, that the runaway commercial success of the Frisbee was born.

platying Frisbee on Florida beach
Via: State Archives of Florida

The Legacy

The pie company folded only a year after the Pluto Platter invention was sold. There was an attempt to revive the pie company by food marketer, Dan O’Connor, and the new company produced pies again from the original recipes from 2017-2019.

Since then it seems they are no longer producing these sweet delicacies. But, if you’re lucky enough to find one of the old pie tins at a secondhand store or antique market then you might want to snap it up. These heavy duty aluminum disks can of course be used to play but they can also be worth money. Back in 2014 when one of these legendary tins appeared on Antiques Roadshow it was appraised at $100.