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American Inventions - Game 15, UConn

If you haven't seen today's invention, we invite you to come out from under that rock.

The main source of fun on the beach and on college campuses throughout the world has brought us joy for decades, but who invented it?


Though the true origin of the flying disc is shrouded in doubt, many have come to accept that entrepreneur Walter Frederick Morrison came up with the game, which he named the Pluto Platter, and in 1957 sold it to Wham-O, also proprietor of the hula hoop. But that story is no fun, and it certainly has nothing to do with Connecticut. For the Connecticut side of it all, we'll have to go a bit further back. There are two conflicting stories about the invention in Connecticut; we'll let you decide who to believe.

In the 1870s, while the University of Connecticut was still under construction in Storrs, a family pie company about an hour and a half south in Bridgeport, CT was a big hit with college students all over the New England region. The ingenious idea of the Frisbie Baking Company was to emboss the family name on the tins so that when moms and housewives were baking pies, they would see the name and think of how much easier it would be to just buy a pie. It was probably one of the first examples of subliminal advertising. The pies were particularly popular at Yale, where students would take empty pie tins and fling them across the lawns for endless hours of cheap fun. This was the case in the 1940s, and a decade later, Fred Morrison made a true marketable product and sold it to Wham-O.

The other story that Yale maintains is a bit more far fetched. It suggests that the idea for a flying saucer was thought up way before Frisbie Baking Company's owners were even born. On campus there were collection tins to collect money, presumably for charity or tithes, since at the time Yale was still a Puritanical school. The story goes that one day in 1820 Yale student Elihu Frisbie (coincidental name, right?) was walking across campus and decided to overturn the collection dish, fling it, and the rest is history.

When I was a kid I'd always heard that the frisbee was invented because some Yale student had just bombed a math test, and upon walking out, tossed his math book out of frustration and noted its spinning motion. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any story backing that up. Despite the ongoing debate about the origins of the flying disc, it is definitely a staple of American culture for people of all ages. Years after the patenting of the , a group of students in New Jersey invented Ultimate Frisbee, and now the game has evolved to this