The man credited with inventing the Frisbee, Walter Fredrick Morrison, died this past Tuesday. He was 90 years old and passed away at his home in Monroe, Utah. He had been battling cancer.
A former pilot during the Second World War, flying a P-47 Thunderbolt in Italy, where he was briefly a P.O.W., Morrison applied his knowledge of aerodynamics to tinker with the pie tins he was tossing on the beaches of Santa Monica with his future wife, Lu. In 1946 Morrison sketched out a design of a flying disc object he then called the Whirlo-Way. Two years later in 1948 Morrison found an investor, Warren Franscioni, who paid for molding the design in plastic, christening the new toy the Flyin-Saucer, (the previous year, 1947, was a big year for UFO sightings, with Roswell and Mt. Rainer/Maury Island incidents.) By 1954, Morrison found he could produce his own discs. With the help of his wife and further upgrades on the design they developed the Pluto Platter, the prototype of all modern flying discs. He would sell the discs at local fairs and dime stores, eventually the disc came to the attention of Wham-O Manufacturing. On January 23, 1957, Morrison sold the production and manufacturing rights for the Pluto Platter to Wham-O. Initially Wham-O marketed the disc as the Pluto Platter, but by 1958 they adopted the name Frisbee, the name college students in New England were calling the discs. The new official name referenced the Frisbie Pie Co., a local bakery whose empty pie tins were often tossed around like a Pluto Platter.
Five decades later, sales have surpassed 200 million discs, it is now a part of the landscape at beaches, parks, college campuses and rooftops world wide, spawning sports like Frisbee golf, and team sports like Goaltimate and Ultimate. An official disc golf course at Creekside Park in the Salt Lake City suburb of Holladay is named for Walter Morrison.
In 2001 Morrison co-wrote a book with Frisbee enthusiast and historian Phil Kennedy.
Walter Fredrick Morrison is survived by his three children and four grandchildren. The family is planning a service for Morrison's friends and relatives Saturday at the Cowboy Corral in Elsinore.