AKA Walter Frederick Morrison
Birthplace: Richfield, UT
Location of death: Monroe, UT
Cause of death: unspecified
Race or Ethnicity: White
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Invented the frisbee
Military service: US Army Air Corps (WWII)
Fred Morrison was a fighter pilot during World War II, flying 58 missions over Italy before being shot down and imprisoned for a month and a half in Germany's infamous Stalag 13. After the war he settled into a quiet life as a furnace installer outside San Luis Obispo, California, where one day he saw children tossing paint-can lids and pie tins at each other. He noticed that they had the same problems he remembered from tossing pie tins in childhood -- the tins tended to crumple or crack, becoming sharp-edged enough to cut a catcher's fingers. Morrison had the bright idea of making pie-tins out of plastic, for tossing, not for pies.
With funds from his business partner, Warren Franscioni, Morrison used a lathe to make his first flying disc, carved for better aerodynamics. In 1947 Morrison and Franscioni formed Partners in Plastic (PIPCo), and called their toy "Flyin' Saucers" to capitalize on the UFO craze of the time. But sales were slow -- the packaging was drab, there was no way to explain the concept of plastic flying discs without demonstrations, but demos were difficult, since it took practice to master the wrist flick required to make Flyin' Saucers fly. Sales picked up when Al Capp drew the toy into a "Li'l Abner" comic strip, but when Morrison and Franscioni reprinted the comic as part of their promotional materials, Capp sued, and PIPCo ceased operations.
Morrison later marketed a slightly redesigned Flyin' Saucer, which he called the Pluto Platter. In 1955 he sold all rights to Wham-O, which changed the toy's name to Frisbee, for the pie tins commonly tossed by students at Yale, which had Frisbie Pie Company embossed in the metal. With expert marketing by Wham-O, and aerodynamic improvements from grooves added to the discs by Wham-O engineer Ed Headrick, Frisbees were tossed from sea to shining sea.
Morrison became a millionaire, and died in 2010 at age 90. Headrick went on to found the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), and died in 2002. The Frisbie Pie Company closed its doors in 1958. And what about Morrison's one-time business partner, Warren Franscioni? He complained for the rest of his life that he had been cheated out of his half of the royalties, but died in 1974 without filing any legal claim.
Wife: Lucile Eleanor Nay Morrison ("Lu", b. 7-Jun-1920, m. 3-Apr-1939, d. 1987)
Taken Prisoner of War by Germany, World War II
Author of books:
Flat Flip Flies Straight: True Origins of the Frisbee (2006)
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