Wham-O Inc. is an American toy company based in Carson, California, United States. It is known for creating and marketing many popular toys for nearly 70 years, including the Hula hoop, Frisbee, Slip 'N Slide, Super Ball, Trac-Ball, Silly String, Hacky sack, Wham-O Bird Ornithopter and Boogie Board,[1] many of which have become genericized trademarks.

Wham-O Toys Inc.
Founded1948; 75 years ago (1948)
FounderRichard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin
Headquarters966 Sandhill Ave, Carson, CA 90746
Key people
Todd Richards: President

Corporate historyEdit

Richard Knerr (1925–2008[2]) and Arthur "Spud" Melin (1924–2002[3]), two University of Southern California graduates who were friends since their teens, were unhappy with their jobs and decided to start their own business. In 1948 they formed the WHAM-O Manufacturing Company in the Knerr family garage in South Pasadena. Their first product was the Wham-O Slingshot, made of ash wood, which Knerr and Melin promoted by holding demonstrations of their own slingshot skills. The name "Wham-O" was inspired by the sound of the slingshot's shot hitting the target.[4] The powerful slingshot was adopted by clubs for competitive target shooting and small game hunting.[5] When they outgrew the garage, Knerr and Melin rented a building on S. Marengo Ave in Alhambra, California; and then, in 1955, moved their manufacturing plant to neighboring San Gabriel, California where they remained until 1987, when they sold the plant to Huy Fong Foods.

Products and marketingEdit

A Frisbee made by Wham-O

In 1957, Wham-O, still a fledgling company, took the idea of Australian bamboo "exercise hoops", manufactured them in Marlex, and called their new product the Hula Hoop. (The name had been used since the 18th century, but till then was not registered as a trademark.) It became the biggest toy fad in modern history.[6][7] 25 million were sold in four months, and in two years sales reached more than 100 million.[8] "Hula Hoop mania" continued through the end of 1959, and netted Wham-O $45 million (equivalent to $418 million in 2023[9]).

Shortly thereafter, the company had another huge success with the Frisbee. In 1955 inventor Fred Morrison began marketing a plastic flying disc called the Pluto Platter. He sold the design to Wham-O in 1957. In 1959 Wham-O marketed a slightly modified version, which they had renamed the "Frisbee" two years earlier in 1957 - and once again a Wham-O toy became a common part of life through the 1960s.

In the early 1960s Wham-O created the Super Ball, a high-bouncing ball made of a hard elastomer Polybutadiene alloy, dubbed Zectron, with a 0.92 coefficient of restitution when bounced on hard surfaces. Around 20 million Super Balls were sold that decade, and the NFL named the Super Bowl games after it.[10]

The Frisbee and Hula Hoop created fads. With other products, Wham-O tried to capitalize on existing national trends. In the 1960s they produced a US$119 do-it-yourself bomb shelter cover. In 1962, they sold a limbo dance kit to take advantage of that fad; and in 1975, when the movie Jaws was released, they sold plastic shark teeth.

Many products were not successful. During an African safari in the early 1960s, Melin discovered a species of fish that laid eggs in the mud during Africa's dry season. When the rains came, the eggs hatched and fish emerged overnight. This inspired Melin to create the Instant Fish product, an aquarium kit consisting of some of the fish eggs, and some mud in which to hatch them.

Other productsEdit

Vintage Blue and white Wham-O Magic Window toy from the 1970s
  • Wham-O Bird Ornithopter (1959) sold in a large cardboard box, ready to fly. Made of aluminum spars, wood, steel wire and mylar, it was brightly painted to resemble a hawk or owl. The retail price for the rubber-band-powered toy was $3 (about $24 in 2020 money). About 600,000 were made.
  • Wheelie Bar (1966) for wheelie bikes, especially well suited for the popular Schwinn Sting-Ray. The packaging design, featuring 1960s icon Rat Fink, was widely reproduced on T-shirts, posters and decals. The television commercial featured Kathryn Minner, the original Little Old Lady from Pasadena.
  • Air Blaster (1965), which shot a puff of air that could blow out a candle at 20 feet[11][12][13][14]
  • Bubble Thing (1988), a flexible plastic strip attached to a wand, which was dipped in soap solution and waved through the air to create giant soap bubbles. Ads claimed it could make bubbles "as long as a bus".
  • Huf'n Puf blowgun that shot soft rubber darts[15]
  • Real (non-toy) crossbows, machetes, boomerangs and throwing knives[16][17]
  • Powermaster .22 caliber single-shot target pistol, sold by mail order (1956),[18] and several other .22 caliber weapons
  • Slip 'N Slide (1961), a carpet-like, water-lubricated sliding surface
  • Water Wiggle (1962), a plastic-enclosed curved nozzle that, when powered by a garden hose, became airborne. Recalled in 1978 after it caused the deaths of two children, having sold approximately 2.5 million units.[19]
  • Monster Magnet (1964)[20]
  • Super Sneaky Squirtin' Stick (1964)[21]
  • Willie (1964), a furry toy snake[22]
  • Super Stuff (1966)[23]
  • Giant Comics (1967)[24]
  • Silly String (1969)
  • Super Elastic Bubble Plastic (1970)
  • Magic Window (1971), two 30 by 30 centimetres (12 in × 12 in) oval plates of heavy clear plastic, with a narrow channel between them containing "microdium" (glass) crystal sands of varying colors that created complex patterns when shifted.[25][26])
  • Trac-Ball
  • Magic sand (1980), sand coated with a hydrophobic material that caused water to bead off of it rather than being absorbed
  • Roller Racer Sit Skate (1983)
  • Hacky Sack, a footbag design purchased from its inventors in 1983
  • Splatter Up (1990s)
  • EZ SPIN Foam Frisbee Disc (2008),[27] a soft version of the Frisbee that could be used indoors
  • Morey Bodyboarding#Prone Tom Morey
  • BZ Pro Boards
  • Churchill Swimfins
  • Smacircle, the world's smallest, lightest e-bike that fits into a backpack
  • Wham-O Frisbee Sonic


Wham-O's initial success was a result of its founders' insight. Knerr and Melin marketed their products directly to kids, including demonstrating their toys at playgrounds. They extensively researched new product ideas, including traveling around the world.[28] “If Spud and I had to say what we contributed,” Knerr said, “it was fun. But I think this country gave us more than we gave it. It gave us the opportunity to do it."[29]

For many years, the company's strategy was to maintain eight to twelve simple, inexpensive products such as Frisbees, Super Balls, and Hula Hoops. New products were developed for tryout periods. Old ones were retired, for a few years or permanently, as their popularity waned. Since the toys were simple and inexpensive, they could be sold by a wide range of retailers, from large Department Stores to five and dime stores.

As Wham-O changed ownership, its new management adjusted this formula to accommodate the changing toy industry, which had increasingly complex toys and fewer distribution channels.

By 2006 Wham-O's product line included several groups of related items using licensed brand names. For example, Sea-Doo is a brand of personal water craft owned by Bombardier; Wham-O makes a Sea-Doo line of small inflatable rafts designed to be towed behind watercraft.

The company's lines are also more complex, and grouped in related categories—for example, the Sea-Doo line (about a dozen products), several Slip 'N Slide variations, and a group of "lawn games".

On January 31, 2011, Wham-O announced an agreement with ICM, the agency representing Atari video games, to represent Wham-O in movies, television, music, and online content based around its toys.[30]

Company timelineEdit

Frisbee political campaign advertisement designed by San Francisco-based advertising executive Bob Gardner of Gardner Communications as part of U.S. President Gerald Ford's 1976 advertising team and given to Ford at the 1976 Republican National Convention.[31] At the time, Gardner's company also held the Frisbee advertising account.[31]
  • 1948: WHAM-O founded. For about a year in the 1950s, the company markets their sporting goods under the name WAMO.
  • 1957: WHAM-O acquires the rights to the Pluto Platter from Fred Morrison and renames it Frisbee.
  • 1958: Hula Hoop introduced[8]
  • 1958: Frisbee sales improve
  • 1961: Slip 'N' Slide introduced
  • 1965: Super Ball introduced
  • 1982: Wham-O purchased by Kransco Group Companies
  • 1994: Mattel buys Wham-O from Kransco
  • 1995: Wham-O buys Aspectus.
  • 1997: Wham-O becomes independent again when an investment group purchases it from Mattel
  • 2002: Founder Arthur "Spud" Melin dies
  • January 2006: Wham-O is sold for ~ US$80 million to Cornerstone Overseas Investment Limited, a Chinese company that owns or controls five factories in China. The same month, Wham-O donated the office files, photographs and films of Dan "Stork" Roddick, Wham-O's director of sports promotion from 1975 to 1994, to the Western Historical Manuscript Collection.
  • 2008: Founder Richard Knerr dies[32]
  • 2008: Wham-O introduces the EZ Spin Foam Frisbee Disc, a soft foam version of the Frisbee
  • 2009: Wham-O sold to investment firm The Aguilar Group[33]
  • 2010: Wham-O acquires Sprig Toys Inc.[34]
  • 2015: StallionSport Ltd. and InterSport Corp. acquire global rights to Wham-O Inc.
  • 2018: Wham-O partners with Smacircle LMT ltd. to introduce Smacircle S1, an e-bike.


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  2. ^ Nelson, By Valerie J. (17 January 2008). "Richard Knerr, 82; co-founded Wham-O, maker of the Hula Hoop and Frisbee". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  3. ^ Horwell, Veronica (2002-07-06). "Obituary: Arthur Melin". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  4. ^ Wham-O. "History". Archived from the original on 2013-02-18. Retrieved 22 Apr 2011.
  5. ^ Robert Hertzberg (April 1951). "Return of the Giant Killer". Mechanix Illustrated.
  6. ^ Brymer, Chuck (2008). The nature of marketing: marketing to the swarm as well as the herd. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 22. ISBN 9780230203365.
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  8. ^ a b International Directory of Company Histories (Vol.61 ed.). St. James Press. 2004.
  9. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  10. ^ "Super Bowl Owes Its Name to a Bouncy Ball – History in the Headlines". History.com. 2012-02-03. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  11. ^ "The Air Blaster by Wham-O". youtube. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  12. ^ "The History of Wham-O". Wham-o.com. Archived from the original on 18 February 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  13. ^ "WHAM-O AIR BLASTER GUN AND TARGET SET". Hake's. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  14. ^ "Air Blaster Gun : Retro". skooldays.com. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  15. ^ "12 Lesser-Known Wham-O Products You Have to See to Believe". Mental Floss. 2015-08-27. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  16. ^ p. 136 Walsh, Tim Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1 Oct. 2005
  17. ^ p. 52 Popular Science Jan 1957
  18. ^ by B.B. Pelletier (2006-01-13). "Airgun makers that spawned firearms | Air gun blog – Pyramyd Air Report". Pyramydair.com. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  19. ^ "Recall of Wham-O Water Wiggle Toy". Cpsc.gov. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  20. ^ "Monster Super Gorilla Giant Horseshoe Magnet – by Wham-o". Onlinesciencemall.com. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  21. ^ Super Sneaky Squirtin Stick (1978-01-24). "Super Sneaky Squirtin Stick – Trademark #73131837, Owner: WHAM-O". Inventively.com. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  22. ^ p. 163 Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third series 1965
  23. ^ "View topic – Wham-O Super Stuff". OldKC.com. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  24. ^ "RETRO REVIEW: Wham-O Giant Comics #1 (April 1967)". Major Spoilers. 31 March 2013. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  25. ^ "MTU Physics – Alumni – Department History – Exhibits – BS Degrees". Phy.mtu.edu. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  26. ^ "Get Yourself a Magic Window, just like the popular 70's toy for all ages!". Magicwindows.org. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  27. ^ EZ SPIN Foam Frisbee Disc
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  29. ^ "Wham-O — Nothin' But Fun". The Attic. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  30. ^ Kit, Borys. "EXCLUSIVE: ICM Signs Wham-O Toy Company". The Hollywood Reporter.
  31. ^ a b John Jacobs (November 19, 1992). "Ad Executive Tells How Bush "Blew' Election Cites Failure To Come Up with a Coherent Message". San Francisco Examiner. p. A18.
  32. ^ "Wham-O co-founder Knerr dies at 82 – San Francisco Business Times". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  33. ^ "Wham-O CEO sues over post-purchase ouster - 8/24/2009 10:01:00 AM - Playthings". Archived from the original on 2009-08-27. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
  34. ^ Said, Carolyn (2010-03-08). "Nostalgia (and Frisbees) in the air at Wham-O". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-03-08.

External linksEdit