Disc-ography: The Ivy League Origins Of Frisbee

© 2005 David Cohn, All Rights Reserved
© 2005 David Cohn, All Rights Reserved

Yesterday the evening news carried the story that frisbee — or “ultimate” as its practitioners call it — has been officially recognized by the Olympic Committee and is a candidate for future games. But did you know that frisbee is just as Ivy-preppy-trad a sport as squash? The pastime was popularized on the Princeton campus in the spring of 1957, though naturally Yale claims it invented it much earlier.

Writing for the New York Times, author Gay Talese was one of the first to write about the man-powered flying saucers. Like Kleenex, frisbee is a Wham-O trademark for the throwable discs, though according to Wikipedia it does not discourage general use of the term.

According to this 1957 article, which predates Talese’s by two months, “frisbee” was the preferred Ivy League term:

ivy frisbee

Which means we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a J. Press frisbee (though no doubt for the Japanese market):



Think you’re too cool to play with one? Steve McQueen was not above it. Here he is killing time on the set of “Bullitt”:


Here’s some more reading about frisbee at Princeton:

• “Frisbee days of Princeton yore

Princeton Alumni Weekly column

 • Princeton University blog post on ultimate frisbee

I’ve yet to determine whether the following is real, however:


So grab yourself a pluto platter (not a buzzsaw blade). There’s still plenty of summer left. — CC

Top image David Cohn. Thanks to OCBD for posting the Press frisbee.

8 Comments on "Disc-ography: The Ivy League Origins Of Frisbee"

  1. My grandmother worked for the Frisbee Pie Company, and I believe my aunt still has some of their pie plates.

  2. Years ago, when I told my grandfather (who went to Amherst) about my days of playing ultimate at my Alma mater (which is also in Amherst), he went on at length about playing Frisbee with homemade discs while he was a student in the early 50s.

  3. Wright Hall | August 4, 2015 at 2:25 pm |

    CC, Frisbee was a Yale thing that goes way back to the 1920s, back to the Frisbie pie company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, which were served in the Yale dining halls.

    Princeton students may have picked up on it but like Princeton itself it came from Yale, and there is much more in the record supporting the Yale and New Haven roots of Frisbee than any other origin, though the 1820s Elihu Frisbee angle was just the hoax of a prankster.

  4. Is there a conspiracy here of Princeton taking or getting credit for everything?

  5. Bags' Groove | August 4, 2015 at 5:05 pm |

    Stevie, proving that the soles on those Sanders chukkas made him fly, baby!

  6. Good eyes Bags’ Groove! I expended the shot to scope those classics out as well!

    CC, yes, a lot of Princeton and Yale credit taking here, but it was two guys from USC to take Frisbee global!

  7. Wright Hall | August 4, 2015 at 11:23 pm |

    “Is there a conspiracy here of Princeton taking or getting credit for everything?”

    haha the hotspot there is the WaWa!

  8. I was throwing a frisbee at dairy farm yesterday. Plenty of room to let it fly!

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