Wham-O: Wikis


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Wham-O Toys Inc.
Type Private
Founded 1948
Founder(s) Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin
Headquarters Emeryville, California, USA
Industry Toys
Website http://www.wham-o.com/
Wham-O headquarters in Emeryville

Wham-O Inc. is a toy company currently located in California, USA. They are known for marketing many popular toys, including the Hula Hoop, the Frisbee, Slip 'N Slide, Super Ball, Super Stuff and Trac-Ball.


Corporate history

Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin, two University of Southern California college graduates unhappy with their employment, began the company in 1948 as "WHAM-O Mfg. Co." in the Knerr family garage in South Pasadena, California. When they outgrew the garage they rented a building on S. Marengo Ave in Alhambra, California. The company eventually moved its manufacturing plant to neighboring San Gabriel, California.

Their first market idea was a Wham-O Wrist Rocket slingshot. The idea came up as the founders hurled meat into the air for the training of pet falcons and hawks. The name Wham-O was used because it was a term the founders used as a sound effect when they released the sling.


  • 1948, WHAM-O founded - For about a year in the fifties, the company tried to brand their sporting goods under the name WAMO. The sporting goods buyers didn't care for the switch so it was soon dropped.
  • 1957, Hula Hoop first manufactured by Toltoys (Developed by David Tolmer).
  • 1957, Flying Saucer / Frisbee first marketed.
  • 1958, Hula Hoop first marketed by WHAM-O.
  • 1958, the Hula Hoop craze occurs.
  • 1958, Flying Saucer / Frisbee sales improve.
  • 1961, Slip 'N' Slide first manufactured by WHAM-O.
  • 1965, Super Ball first manufactured by WHAM-O.
  • 1982, Wham-O was purchased by Kransco Group Companies.
  • 1994, Mattel bought Wham-O from Kransco.
  • 1995, Wham-O bought Aspectus company.
  • 1997, Wham-O became independent again when a group of investors purchased the company from Mattel.
  • January 2006, Wham-O was sold for ~ US$80 million to Cornerstone Overseas Investment Limited, a Chinese company that owns or controls five factories in China. That same month Wham-O donated the office files, photographs and films of Dan "Stork" Roddick (Dir. Sports Promotion 1975–1994) to Western Historical Manuscript Collection (Midwest Disc Sports Collection accession 5828). WHMC is located on the University of Missouri, Columbia campus and is a joint collection with the State Historical Society of Missouri.
  • 2002, Arthur "Spud" Melin passes away.
  • 2008, Richard Knerr passes away. [1]
  • 2008, Wham-O introduces the EZ Spin Foam Frisbee Disc (waterproof foam disc with plastic center for spinning of disc on top or bottom of disc)
  • 2009, Wham-O sold to investment firm The Aguilar Group [2]
  • 2010 Wham-O acquires Sprig Toys Inc.[3]

As of 2007, US headquarters is in Emeryville, California.

Products and marketing

In 1957, Wham-O, still a fledgling company, took the idea of Australian bamboo "exercise hoops" and manufactured them with Marlex. The new Hula Hoop was born (the name "hula hoop" has been used since the 18th century). Knerr and Melin had created the biggest fad to date. Twenty-five million were sold in less than four months, and in two years sales reached more than 100 million units. By the end of 1959, after US$45 million in profits, the fad slowly was dying out.

Shortly after, they got lucky again with the Frisbee. In 1955 Fred Morrison began marketing a plastic flying disc which he called the "Pluto Platter". He sold the design to Wham-O in 1957 and the design was modified, the product renamed Frisbee and sales took off in 1959.

In the early 1960s, they created the Super Ball. It was made of a relatively hard elastomer alloy dubbed Zectron, exhibiting a remarkable 0.92 coefficient of restitution when bounced on hard surfaces. They sold some 20 million of them during the 1960s.

The Frisbee and Hula Hoop created fads. Other products tried to take advantage of existing national trends. In the 1960s, Wham-O came out with 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, of course, were not successful. One such product came as a result of Melin's safari to Africa in the early 1960s. While camping, he 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. Melin turned this into the Instant Fish product, an aquarium kit that consisted of some of the fish eggs and some mud to hatch them in. Its debut at a New York toy fair made it wildly popular, but the fish couldn't produce eggs fast enough, so the idea was dropped.

Other products included:

  • The Wheelie Bar (1966) for bicycles, especially well suited for the popular Schwinn Stingray. The packaging featured 1960s icon Rat Fink, and the image was widely distributed on T-shirts, posters, and decals. The television ad featured Kathryn Minner, the original Little Old Lady from Pasadena.
  • The "Air Blaster" (1963), which could blow out a candle at 20 feet.
  • The "Bubble Thing" (1988) soap bubble toy, which is an extremely large bubble wand, usually dipped in a small plastic wading pool filled with bubble solution that claims to make bubbles "as long as a bus" (which is actually true).
  • The "Huf'n Puf" blowgun, which shot soft rubber darts, a gentler version of the real thing, which Melin and Knerr discovered during a toy-scouting journey to Africa. Wham-O also marketed very real crossbows, boomerangs, throwing knives, and even a .22 caliber single-shot target pistol.
  • Slip 'N Slide 1961
  • Water Wiggle 1962
  • Monster Magnet 1964
  • Super Sneaky Squirtin' Stick 1964
  • Willie 1964
  • Super Ball 1965
  • Super Stuff 1966
  • Giant Comics 1967
  • Silly String 1969
  • Super Elastic Bubble Plastic 1970
  • Magic Window 1971
  • Trac-Ball
  • Magic sand 1980
  • Roller Racer Sit Skate 1983
  • The Hacky Sack footbag product design was purchased from its inventors in 1983
  • EZ SPIN Foam Frisbee Disc 2008


Wham-O's initial success can be seen as a result of the insight of its founders. Knerr and Melin aimed their products directly at kids, going out to playgrounds to reach them. They also did extensive research to find new product ideas, including traveling all over the world.[4]

For many years, the company's product strategy was to have a stable of eight to twelve simple and inexpensive products, such as Frisbees, Super Balls, and Hula Hoops. New products would be developed and added to the line for a tryout period, and old ones retired (either for a few years or permanently) as their popularity waned. Since the toys weren't expensive or complicated, they were sold by a wide variety of retailers, from large department stores to corner Five and dime shops.

After the sale of the company, the various new owners experimented with changes to this formula; the toy industry was changing, with more complicated products and fewer sales outlets.

As of 2006, the portfolio of product lines includes several groups of related items which use licensed brand names. For example, Sea-Doo is a manufacturer Personal water craft; Wham-O makes a "Sea-Doo" product line of small inflatable rafts designed to be towed behind the watercraft.

Product lines are also more complex, and are grouped into related categories; the Sea-Doo line has around a dozen products, there are several Slip 'N Slide variations, a group of "lawn games" and so on.

In popular culture

  • A fictionalized account of the invention of two Wham-O products, the Hula-Hoop and Frisbee, is depicted in the 1994 film The Hudsucker Proxy, though the company is mentioned only in the end credits of the film.
  • In 2003, Wham-O sued to have the film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star removed from theaters until the "Slip 'N Slide" scene was removed. They claimed it violated the product's safety instructions.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Wham-O co-founder Knerr dies at 82
  2. ^ Wham-O CEO sues over post-purchase ouster
  3. ^ Said, Carolyn (2010-03-08). "Nostalgia (and Frisbees) in the air at Wham-O". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/03/08/MN3N1C6M1T.DTL. Retrieved 2010-0-08. 
  4. ^ "Branding In History:Fad and Brand – Wham-O" Marketing Doctor Blog. April 14, 2008.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

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  1. California based toy manufacturer known for holding the patents on such items as the Hula-Hoop, Frisbee, Hacky-Sack and SuperBall

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