The Frisbee and the Hula Hoop were the most popular products created by Wham-O in the 1950’s.
Wham-O, a toy company that still operates today, was responsible for the creation of three very popular 1950’s toys; the Slingshot, the Hula Hoop and the Frisbee. Wham-O was created in 1948 by friends Arthur “Spud” Melin and Richard Knerr. Both were unhappy with their jobs so they created the company and operated it out of the Knerr family garage. Their first product was the Slingshot, which became a standard toy for young boys growing up in the 1950’s. The company was actually named after the sound the missile makes when it hits its target.
Wham-O was not immediately successful but received a big break in 1955 when Fred Morrison sold Melin and Knerr his prototype of a flying plastic disc. Wham-O introduced the Pluto Platter to America in 1957, at a time when the country was fascinated by UFOs. In 1958 they renamed the product the Frisbee. It was not an overnight sensation but sales increased and of course now the Frisbee is an American icon.
In 1958 things really took off for Wham-O when Melin and Knerr invented the Hula Hoop, inspired by Australian bamboo exercise hoops. They promoted the product for months with national marketing, playground demonstrations and free hoops given to children. Their hard work paid off because in July of 1958 the Hula Hoop craze took hold of the country and became one of the greatest fads of all time. Twenty-five million hoops were made in only four months.
Wham-O went on to create a number of popular products including the Slip ‘N’ Slide in 1961, the Super Ball and the Air Blaster in 1965, and Silly String in 1969.