In 1871, a Civil War veteran by the name of William Russel Frisbie founded The Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. William came to the idea to start a business soon after the war has ended. Very soon, he managed to turn a division of the Olds Baking Company into a huge and successful pie-making business that sold almost 80 000 pies a day (in 1956). But soon, as much as the pies were good, the dishes in which they were served started “flying all around.”
The metal containers with “Frisbie Pies” stamped on the bottom turned out to have more than one use. Besides holding the pies inside, the flat metal pan was showing some aerodynamic properties too. This was noticed by the workers at the bakery or by the local children first, but anyways, they started throwing the dishes around during their breaks.
Frisbie pies were supplied in many restaurants and groceries around Northeast US. One of their major consumers was Yale University. Soon enough soon enough, students from the campus found out about the properties of the dish and a new past time activity was slowly born. “Frisbie-ing”, as the used to call it, became a huge study distraction for them.
“Frisbie-ing” maybe started at the university, but it won’t stay limited only to the campus for long. Soon enough, it will become a worldwide phenomenon. This simple “toy” will turn into a symbol of all past time activities. The Frisbie Pie Company continued making pies, but when the “by-product” of their pies came to the attention of Walter Morrison, a World War II fighter pilot, thighs started to develop. Morrison was well versed in the science of aerodynamic. Inspired by the Frisbie pan, he made a new flying toy and he named it “Whirlo-Way” . The name was later changed to “Flying Saucer”, and finally it became the “Pluto Platter.” The name changes were made because of the increased interest in science fiction in the 1950’s.
Morrison wasn’t ver successful in selling his product. He was a good inventor but not very skilled in marketing. When the famous Wham-O Company from California (the makers of the Hula Hoop) heard about his invention they approached him and bought the rights from him.
Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, the founders of Wham-O went in Connecticut and had the opportunity to observe students at Yale’s campus play the game with the original Frisbie pie pans. While they were tossing the pan, students used to yell “Fris-bie!” The name Frisbie was appealing for Knerr and Melin. In order to avoid trademark issues with the real Frisbie Pie Company, the decided to change the spelling and that is how “Frisbee” was born in 1957! This was a great deal for Wham-O, they had an initial sale of over 300 million Frisbees and the number is going up even today. Although there are many Frisbee imitations on the market today, only The Wham-O frisbee is considered genuine.
The Frisbie Pie Company, from the beginning of the Frisbee story, didn’t have the luck of Wham-O. In 1958, only one year after the Frisbee was made, the bakery was closed and sold to another company, “Table Talk Pies of Worcester, Massachusetts.” At least, knowingly or not, they managed to secure their place into popular culture and into modern history.
The Frisbie Pie Company is maybe long-gone but not forgotten. The original Frisbie Pie pans are considered as a collectible material and many of them are sold on actions for high prizes. And last but not least, they were even mentioned and referenced in the movies. In this short clip from “Back to the Future Part III”, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) while time-travelling to the Wild West, finds amusement in seeing the word “Frisbie” at the bottom of a pie plate. He will later the plate at a derringer held by outlaw Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson), foiling his attempt to shoot Doctor Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd).