Wham-O is probably best known for a product called the Pluto Platter. “Huh?” you ask. “What’s that?” That’s the name the original inventor used, but when Wham-O bought the rights, they gave it a livelier name – Frisbee.
Wham-O’s golden era was the late 1950s, when the company seemed capable of turning its every product into a national obsession. In 1958, company founders Arthur “Spud” Melin (you’ve got to love a company founded buy a guy named “Spud”) and Richard Knerr heard of Australian children using a bamboo ring for exercise. They made them in colors, and sold 25 million of them in four months. That product was – Hula Hoop.
Then the inventor boys came up with another idea that became a national craze. It was as simple as having a long strip of plastic that could be hosed down to allow kids to stay cool in the summer. For a while, every kid in America wanted their own – Slip ‘n Slide.
Wham-O continues in business to this day, having been bought by Kransco in 1982, which was then purchased by Mattel in 1994, spun off into independence again in 1997, and is now owned by a company called Cornerstone.
Oh, one funny story about another Wham-O product, the Superball, a ball that bounced uncontrollably. A large Superball made for promotional purposes was “accidentally” dropped from a 23rd story window in Australia. It bounced back up 15 stories, then plunged right into an open convertible. The car was totaled, but the ball was undamaged.
This video is amazing:
Wham-O, Frisbee, Hula Hoop, Slip ‘n Slide, and Superball are registered trademarks of Wham-O Inc.