Radio Flyer

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If you, like me, are a fan of US movies and TV series, then the iconic Radio Flyer will be more than familiar. Indeed, I know they must be sold in other parts of the world, but like so many everyday iconic items of US life – check out our earlier post on Iconic US Sweets/Candies –  Iconic American Candy – Part 1 – I don’t think I have seen one for sale in the UK. Certainly, when my kids would have loved such a product they weren’t available.

For generations, US kids have carted themselves, several siblings, pets, toys and other important treasures in these charming red trolley wagons. A wonderful item  of great simplicity that’s use is limited only by the depths of a child’s imagination. As American as “Milk Duds” but what’s their story?

2017 saw the celebration of the first hundred years of the Radio Flyer. Antonio Pasin, a Venetian born son of a cabinet maker who, aged 16, in 1913 arrived in New York City to start a new life. In 1917, in Chicago, he started building wooden toy wagons and selling them to local shops. He was a jobbing joiner who built the wooden wagons to carry his tools.

Demand for the wagons led to Pasin forming the Liberty Coaster Company in 1923, and ten years after he made his first wooden wagons he was making pressed steel versions and selling them for just under $3.00. He was very interested in the many production techniques used in the local car industry, earning himself the nickname “Little Ford”. In the 1930’s he produced several versions of his “Liberty Coaster” including The Streak-O-Lite” and The Zephyr that echoed the Chrysler Airflow.

Renaming the company in 1930 the Radio Steel and Manufacturing, the brand name “Radio Flyer” stemming from Pasin’s fascination with the pioneers of Radio (Marconi) and Flight (Lindbergh).

Production was interrupted during the latter stages of the Second World War and turned to oil drum manufacture but the company survived. In 1987 Radio Steel and Manufacturinf became “Radio Flyer Inc” which has been overseen by Pasin’s grandson, Robert as CEO, since 1997.

The company’s range of Radio Flyer and associated products grows annually and aside from being voted a great company to work for, its iconic products are rooted deep in the warmth of the American psyche.

Images used with grateful thanks – Radio Flyer Inc., ClassicCars.com and Vintage Vending Inc.

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Unsung but Essential Icons

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As I control the creative direction of Aestheticons I choose what’s featured. Largely that means that I chose aspirational gems. However, instead of looking up in awe and appreciation we need to consider the more mundane.

The items featured in this piece are neither glamorous, alluring – unless you are into the really weird – nor really do anything in excess of their primary function. At that, they are superlative and without them elements of our busy lives would be a struggle. They are Unsung – not enjoying massive Instagram accounts with millions of adoring followers – but Essential Icons.

Cable ties

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I defy anyone who derives the smallest amount of pleasure from tending a garden, to fix a plant to a trellace or a bamboo cane or a brush screening to a gate without the use of a cable tie. Not only can this devilishly small but wonder strips of plastic fixing be a the gardener’s friend, they, with equal competence, support the work of electrician, plumbers and builders and many others in thousands of conceived and yet to be conceived ways.

Known as originally as Ty-Rap, cable ties were first invented, primarily to secure airplane wiring into the bulkhead, in 1958 by US based electrical business Thomas & Betts and more particularly their employee, Maurus C. Logan. Mr Logan developed into production the idea he’d conceived of aboard a Boeing during construction. The Patent was submitted on 24th June 1958.

Why not add to your tool drawer with this Amtech selection of 500 cable ties? Click the AMAZON link below the image

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Amtech S0680 Assorted Cable Tie, 500-Piece

WD40

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As our readers know I Like to cycle but over the winter months my bike has a tendency to be a little neglected and exposed to the elements. When the cooler seasons have done their worst on my waistline the time is right to look for the foot pump and adaptor and get some air into those bike tyres. The tyres are only half the battle. The gears, brakes and chain scream out for the TLC that can only be lavished on them by WD40 the spray delivered a light penetrating, protecting and lubricating oil.

As the saying goes a “Sucess has many Fathers” and there appears to be some controversy as to originator of WD-40. It seems that the formula of WD-40 was developed in 1953 by The Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, California and first produced in commercially available quantities in 1958. The contributions – depending on sources – of a Iver Norman Lawson and a Norman Larson (President of Rocket) are named as the “inventor” of the formula with the name WD-40 seemingly stemming from the expression “Water Displacement  40th Formula” – suggesting there may have been a 39th, 38th and so on versions of the formula.

It may be that Lawson invented the low viscosity formula – still a trade secret but still has the original and distinctive smell – and sold it to Rocket where Larson had the bright idea of putting it into aerosol cans. It arrived in the UK in the late 1960’s.

For those many jobs around the home or office for which only WD-40 will do, why not pick up a can or two by clicking the AMAZON link below the image?

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3 x WD-40 Smart Straw Aerosol 420ml Penetrant, Lubricant, Releasant Oil / Stops squeaks / Cleans and protects / Loosens rusted parts / Frees sticky mechanisms

Paper Clips

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As a lawyer I am very pro the paper-less office, technology can teach us loads about sensible digital storage and retrieval. In parking our fears and posting to the Cloud we make a statement that’s more about efficiency and less about tree hugging.

For years we relied on the trust paper clip to secure our files, ensure correct attachments to letters and avoid inevitable embarrassment on a windy day. Called a “Trombone” in French, a literal use that I find very appealing, the simple paper clip does exactly what the tin says.

History tells us that in the US on April 23rd 1867 Samuel B. Fay successfully obtained the first Patent for a bent wire paper clip. On November 7th 1899 William D Middlebrook obtained a Patent for a paper clip making machine that produced an item – made popular as the “Gem Paper Clip” which went on sale in the UK in the 1870’s – and are similar to those sold today. The name Gem – trademarked in the US by Cushman and Denison in 1904 – became known Worldwide and in Sweden, I am told, that the word for paper clip is “Gem”.

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No desk is complete without a selection of plastic coated paper clips – please click the AMAZON link below the image to get yours.

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Zealor Paper Clips with Assorted Colors and Sizes (28 mm, 50 mm, 100 mm)

Image Credits – with grateful thanks – http://www.officemuseum.com, Zealor and the WD-40 Company Inc.

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Favourite T-Shirts

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I have a favourite T Shirt – our featured image. It’s not the slightly lewd text, nor the “End of the Pier” – “Nudge, Nudge” – humour that appeals most to me. It’s the fact that Mrs W bought it over 20 years ago in New York City and it is loved as much for the item as the thought that went into its purchase.

Indeed it may have been on impulse – she doesn’t like shopping much – but it is the expression of her view towards me as her then relatively new husband who was coming to terms with his then slightly thinning hair. It’s been worn by us both over the years and amazingly it has outlasted many branded shirts that have been worn half as much.

I like T-Shirts especially as the summer turns to crank up the heat into the early 30’s.

T-Shirts have, in my view, to deliver in two simple respects. They need to be 100% cotton – whatever the brands try to persuade you of their new wonder fabric that will keep you as cool as a Polar Bear’s backside – sorry cotton is best. It’s also needs to be slightly on the big side allowing it to flap in whatever wind is available capturing some cooling and fanning effect as it goes.

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For me, some of the very best T-Shirts are made by Fruit of the Loom – they are consistently good and I really respect a company that stays loyal – in the main – to the one product that they are noted for and deliver year after year. We have featured Fruit of the Loom on Aestheticons before and you can read our previous post here – Fruit of the Loom – T shirts

I really like certain iconic T-Shirts that shout loudly about your preferences. Many of you will know of my love for New York City and the iconic Milton Glaser design – I ❤️ NY – is simply, though a little cliched by over familiarity, but as valid as a tattoo.

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Equally my London home is well represented by the shirts of the Hard Rock Cafe – again a little jaded and over-exposed – you can pick up the same shirt in London, Moscow or Marbella – but still its a cultural icon. Hard Rock Cafe T Shirt

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Last year I picked up on a ranking of the 10 most Iconic T-Shirts – Iconic T-Shirts    there will be those who will make it their mission – not in any charitable campaign sense but just as a bit of fun – to seek to collect all 10. Not for me, but please go ahead.

Enjoy the summer and enjoy your T-Shirts and I’d love to know which T-Shirts are your treasures!

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Milton Glaser, Hard Rock Cafe and Fruit of the Loom.

 

Man Ray

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Like most people with an interest in the popular cultures and arts of the last hundred or so years the name Man Ray is well known to me. His body of photography, particularly that featured in the galleries of London and Paris, seems very familiar but I know little of the artist behind these iconic photos aside from his key roles in Dadaism and Surrealism and his frienship with those including Salvador Dali – see Dominic Baker’s earlier post on Dali’s work here – Salvador Dali by Dominic Baker

Born Emmanuel “Manny” Rudnitzky on 27th August 1890 in Philadelphia, the eldest of four children of Jewish tailor and his wife, Max and Minnie Rudinitzky, who had emigrated from Russia. During Manny’s childhood the family moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The family changed their surname to “Ray” in 1912.

Man Ray’s artistic ability was evident early on. In 1908, following Brooklyn Boys High School, he pursued his art studies at the free thinking and socialist Ferrer School/Modern School and with Alfred Stieglitz – an influential photographer – who owned gallery “291” that featured European Modernists.

The Armoury Show in New York in 1913 featured works by Picasso and Kandinsky that greatly inspired Ray. In 1915 he met French artist Marcel Duchamp – who later described his use of a camera “as a paint brush “ – and together with Francis Picabia they comprised an informal grouping of New York Dada artists. From this era, Ray’s 1921 sculpture “The Gift” was created featuring a tailoring iron with tacks welded to its surface – thus rendering the iron’s true function, useless. Our image below shows his version from 1958 that, like many of his earlier work, were re-created by Man Ray – following his return from the US.

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Europe called and in 1921 Ray moved to Paris where he associated with the Dada and Surrelists artists in the French capital – along with Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. In Paris he pursued a lucrative career as a portrait photographer – taking photos of James Joyce amongst many others – and as fashion photographer for titles such as “Vogue”. His commercial work provided resources to developed his own style of photography called “rayographs”. These involved Ray placing and manipulating objects on pieces of photosensitive paper.

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In 1924 Ray composed and shot the iconic “Violin d’Ingres” featuring his muse and lover Kiki. Kiki also featured again in “Noire et Blanche”.

By the late 1920’s Ray had a new muse, the fashion model, Lee Miller. In 1929 he produced the stunning “Solarised’ work featuring her profile headshot.

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Our featured image “Glass Tears” dates from 1932.

Man Ray left for California in 1940 where he concentrated on his painting but returned to Paris in 1951 to continue to paint – really his preferred media – to write and sculpt. Aged 86 Ray died in Paris on 18th November 1976.

A friend from the art world once told me that often the most collectible pieces were “self portraits” – because simply it depicts how the artist sees themselves. This mischievous half bearded self portrait of Man Ray comes from 1943

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Photo credits with grateful thanks Man Ray Trust and the Lee Miller Estate

Bob Dylan

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I wasn’t early to the party. It was about 1975 when my sister introduced me to Bob Dylan’s astonishingly iconic performances on music-cassette. It was a Greatest Hits Album with Dylan shot in blue in profile on the inlay card and I am forever grateful.

My sister had a small Sony Music-cassette compact system featuring a cassette deck and radio with two detachable speakers – mid-seventies cool for sure. Remember this?

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She was training as a Nurse in the City of London at one of the UK finest teaching hospitals, paving the way for my arrival in the Smoke within eighteen months. She is two years older, had tried Gitanes before me and she had discovered Bob Dylan before me.

The Greatest Hits album – was in fact it was the Greatest Hits Volume 2 – from 1971 and was released in view of the dirth of new material from Dylan at the behest of Columbia Record’s label boss, Clive Davis. He became of some influence over my later career in music and some time later he left under a cloud. Initially reticent, Dylan had then agreed to compile it himself adding unreleased material from the Basment Tapes era but I am getting ahead here….

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volmne 2 – click the link below the image

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Vol. 2-Greatest Hits

I simply don’t believe anyone who says they don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs. I love almost all. That’s like saying I don’t really like Spring or Tulips. I get that his singing may sometimes be a challenge. His voice varies hugely from the sonous and walnut to a croak but his words, his rhymes and his use of language are simply sublime. Weaving morality tales and fables with the support of a simple folk riff, a country slide-guitar, a brassy pomp or a more complicated cajun orchestration.

Dylan – together with able foot-soldiers Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen – is the Voice of several generations. From the early 1960’s and the era of the Protest Song and the Civil Rights movement, to Woodstock and to the Summer of Love – see here our previous post – Peace Sign and The Summer of Love – to later “difficult albums” that explore love, loss and religion to more recent masterpieces that dwell on death and legacy.

In 2016, Dylan became the first songwriter ever  to win Nobel Prize For Literature.

Dylan has sold more than 100m copies of more than sixty albums. He has written, prolifically, broadcasted and podcasted for years and has nurtured a diverse and talented family.

I have seen Dylan perform live on several occasions including at Harvey Goldsmith’s promoted “The Picnic at Blackbushe Aerodrome” show in 1978. I still have the poster!

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Despite at times ill-health, his commitment to endless touring – since the late 1990’s – has become an enduring legacy allowing the faithful to flock to see his performances. In the earlier years shows performances were loyal to familiar songs, more recently Dylan’s treatment of his standards, deconstructing them to within an inch of their lives, has not always been well received. I guess the master artist needs stimulation and revising original orchestrations must be a way to keep things interesting. After all they are his songs!

I was in Los Angeles in 1980 and visiting the celebrated and iconic Polo Lounge at Beverley Hills Hotel. Arriving in a city taxi we pulled towards the entrance of the hotel and there, getting into a cherry red compact car, was the diminutive and slightly stooped stature of our hero. Something very domestic, almost deliberately improverished and above all not really giving a f**k about expectation, perception or pretense. The very anthesis of the image of Californian life.

Every filmed interview of Dylan – and there really aren’t many – from 1965 in San Francisco, to D A Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back” – 1967 traipse around Europe – to the media coverage of the his investigature as a Nobel Prizewinner is punctuated by his well intentioned and sincere confusion by all the fuss. The younger Dylan explaining to an overly fawning interviewer, who was clearly irritating, that he had nothing of interest to share and shouldn’t presume to be able to. His reluctant assumption of the role as “Spokesman of his Generation” is just ours for the invention. His “I just set up my stall, played a few tunes and the rest is down to you” appears to be his honest belief. No master manipulator, no synical plan.

Like many have before you – can you help understand a little more about Dylan’s work by reading his own writing from the autobiographical “Chronicles Part One”? – Click the link below the image 

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Chronicles: Volume One

Don’t tell me you haven’t tried! We’d all love to be able to master the riffs that make the songs sing – some will, some inevitably wont! I am one…..

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Bob Dylan Made Easy for the Guitar: 1

The Music – there are sixty albums to chose from but can I suggest a couple of starting places. I’d also suggest that you don’t stream – please enjoy the packaging as well as the songs – please click the link below the image 

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

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The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Bringing It All Back Home

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Bringing It All Back Home (2010 Mono Version)

Blood on The Tracks – for me probably the Best…..

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Blood On The Tracks

Desire

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Desire

Time Out Of Mind

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Time Out Of Mind

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Images courtesy of Milton Glaser, Sony, CBS and Columbia Record.

Brooks Brothers Shirts

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There is every possibility that it’s a sin. Not one of the Seven Deadly – the major ones – but a guilty pleasure that I, and I am certain many other men, equally enjoy…..wow where’s this going? Pull yourself together. I am talking about the sensual feel of a box fresh/pins still in or freshly laundered/well ironed, one hundred cotton shirt. Bliss!

In my view, the shirts made by Brooks Brothers are not only iconic, given their extensive heritage including the Original Polo Shirt – my very own is our featured image – but their fabrics are simply beautiful and each shirt is a complete joy to wear. 2018 see the 200th anniversary of the launch of this US style icon – some classic Americana – but what’s the story behind these remarkable products?

On 7th April 1818 Henry Sands Brooks, aged 45, opens H. & D. H. Brooks & Co. on the corner of Catherine and Cherry Streets in New York City as both shirt makers and merchants. By 1833 Henry Sands Brooks called upon his sons to assist him with the business. His eldest son, Henry, Jr. took the helm upon his father’s passing a year later. Heny is in charge until 1850, when younger brothers Daniel, John, Elisha, and Edward, assume leadership and change the firm’s name to Brooks Brothers.

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In 1849, Brooks Brother’s scored a first with the introduction of  Ready-Made clothing – a modestly priced alternative to made to measure tailored suits.

In 1850, Brooks Borthers adopted the Golden Fleece, the historical symbol of wool merchants, as their trademark which has remained their distinctive logo ever since.

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In 1865 a regular, Abraham Lincoln, was presented with a Brooks jacket with an embroidered lining bearing the words “One Country One Destiny” below a spread eagle. He wore the jacket at his second inauguration as President. He wore the same jacket two weeks later, on 14th April 1865, to the Washington’s Ford’s Theatre where he was fatally shot by, actor and pro-slavary activists, John Wilkes Booth.

In 1896 John E. Brooks the founder’s grandson was at a polo match in the UK when he saw that the polo players wearing shirts with disctivtive buttoned down collars. He told his colleagues in New York and the Button-Down shirt, a Brooks classic was born. To this day the Brook’s Polo Shirt includes the expression “The Original Polo Shirt” on its label.

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In 1915 Brooks Brothers relocatesd to 346 Madison Avenue – see below including a list of earlier locations prior to arriving on Madison – set in the heart of New York’s Universities and social clubs.

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Madison Avenue in the decades to come became the corporate homes to the advertising, illustration and marketing communities. It’s no surprise that Brooks Borthers have acted as costume advisors on and made suits for the “Mad Men” TV series set in the late 1950’s early 1960’s.

F. Scott FitzGerald was a very keen Brooks customer and drew heavily of his favourite stores in his writing. In this way Brooks effectively created Jay Gatby’s style for “The Gatsby Gatsby”.  Indeed the 2013 remake of the movie featured a cast entirely dressed in Brooks.

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From the mid-1920’s the Halls of the Ivy League were being dressed with Brooks shirts, striped Repp ties, khaki trousers and blue blazers in the definitive preppie style that I really like to this today and continues yes to be hugely popular.

During a slightly earlier era, the Ivy League students local to Bridgeport CT were throwing Frisbie tins – see our earlier post here – Frisbee

In 1946, Winthrop Holley Brooks, the great-great grandson of the founder sold the business to Julius Garfinckel and Company of Washington DC. The business is now owned and managed by the Italian “Retail Brand Alliance”.

The breadth of customers is truely fascinating – talk about voting with their feet! Whilst John F Kennedy loved their slimmer fitting suits, Andy Warhol, Richard Nixon and Clark Gable, apparently, shopped for clothes no where else. It is said that 39 out of 44 Presendients have chose to wear Brooks clothing.

Would you like to know more about the fastinating story of this American style icon? If so please click on the link below the image

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Brooks Brothers: Two Hundred Years of American Style

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Images from Brooks Brothers with grateful thanks

Frisbee

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As a kid, in my parent’s car – in addition to Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum to avert the inevitable bout of car sickness – we would always have a Frisbee in a door compartment or the boot. A country walk, a trip to the beach or a camping holiday would always feature some time to rest up and any combination of the four of us would start flicking the Frisbee.

I have no understanding of the science but I can very happily recommended Wrigley’s iconic Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum as an effective car sickness prevention that I was plagued by as a kid. Try it for yourself by clicking the following AMAZON link

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Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit (box of 14)

As we got older we started getting cocky about using the wind to bank the Frisbee, like a boomerang, catching it on one finger and attempting to keep it spinning. Often a disaster would result. I have memories of rowing a small Campari inflateable dingy out to sea to recover a red Frisbee that had banked too steeply and crashed into the ocean. On other occasions our dog, “Kimbo” would be come overawed by the flying disc that he’d catch it and run away to knaw it in a quiet corner.

Not only a classic design icon of an earlier era there was a simplicity to its design and feel that has left an indelibale mark on several generations of users and has spawned competitive sports, particularly in the US, with Ultimate Frisbee, Freestyle Frisbee and Frisbee Golf.

On 23rd January 1957 Wham-O Toys Inc. a company founded in 1948 and based in Carson (California) started to make plastic discs that became known as “Frisbees”.

The idea was not wholly original. Aside from the Discus of 8th century BC Ancient Greece, the aerodynamic discs were based on empty tin pie cases as used, since 1871, by William Frisbie’s of the Frisbie Pie Company initially of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Legend has it that local universtity students – that included Yale, Princeton, Amherst and Dartmouth – would throw these Frisbie pie cases – that had the name “Frisbie Pies” embossed on the base.

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In the late 1940’s, Fred Morrison and Warren Franscioni invented a plastic version of the disc and following his split from Franscioni, in 1957, Morrison, having made further improvements, sold the intellectual property rights in the plastic discs, then called “Pluto Platter”, to Wham-O. In 1958, Wham-O changed the name to the Frisbee disc and, following the addition of concentric ribs on the top surface for stability, patent protection was applied for in 1967. Sales really took off in 1959.

By 1977 over 100m units had been sold and in 1994 Mattel Toys acquired Kransco, the company that had acquired the rights to Wham-O and the official Frisbee in 1982. In 1997 a group of investors re-purchased Wham-O from Mattel, it was subsequently sold in 2006 to a Chinese group and, in 2015, Stallion Sports and InterSports Corporation acquired global rights to Wham-O.

See this very early WHAM-O Toys commercial for the Frisbee – Original Frisbee Commercial

If you’d like to buy original Frisbees please click the following links:

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Wham-O Freestyle Frisbee HDX Lid´ 165g – Transparent

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Wham-O Malibu frisbee 110g blue

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Disc Ultimate – Wham-O – Frisbee The Original Since 1958, white/red

And for those who are already Frisbee crazy how about a T shirt or two?

 

Hippowarehouse Frisbee Evolution Unisex Short Sleeve t-Shirt (Specific Size Guide In Description)

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Eat Sleep Frisbee – Mens T-Shirt-Royal Blue-Large

Wham-O also own the Morey brand name of bodyboards. Please see here our previous post on Morey – Morey Boogie boardsof which I am a huge fan and still use their boards today.

We understand that in 2016, Dan O’Connor, a local Frisbee player and historian realised a thirty year dream of resurrecting the Frisbie brand when he was granted certain rights to use the name “Frisbie Pie Co” that has ceased to bake in 1956. In November 2016, O’Connor, who had discovered an old Frisbie recipe book at an estate sale, began making, distributing and selling pies in the Bridgeport (CT.) region.

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Image Credits – grateful thanks to Wham-O Toys Inc and the Frisbie Pie Company.