Have Pie, Will Fly: Discussion and Illustration of Frisbie Pie Company Collectibles

June 23, 2021  •  1 Comment

Have Pie, Will Fly: Discussion and Illustration of Frisbie Pie Company CollectiblesHave Pie, Will Fly: Discussion and Illustration of Frisbie Pie Company Collectibles

—By Davis Johnson—

====== Part II ======

Flash and the PanFlash and the PanMy candidate for best frisbee themed LP ever, by Flash and the Pan, which included former members of The Easybeats, famous way back when for “Friday on My Mind.” The music more than matches the cover; quirky, catchy, and full of hooks! Welcome back for a second helping of pie! Though, surely you can’t wait to tuck into Part 2 of “All Things Frisbie,” due to readers’ overwhelming and inexplicable interest in the ongoing efforts to mathematically compute Pi, we begin with a group of social influencers pictured attempting to do just that—note the very familiar thought bombs they're spinning up!

Those of you continuing to plow through this account are likely collectors, well-aware that a formidable collection of anything needs cataloging. For the numerous varieties/styles of Frisbie pie plates, Victor Malafronte in The Complete Book of Frisbee pioneered a logical, easy to understand Frisbie cataloging system: The original Frisbie tins were the so-called Perforated F variety. But if you have one it is not necessarily “old.” Perforated F tins were produced throughout the company’s existence.

Smaller diameter, custard pie Perforated F tinPerforated F TinA rare, smaller diameter, oblique shouldered tin that likely contained custard type pies [P3] Later model Perforated F TinPerforated F TinThe shiny patina on this tin means this was likely manufactured late in the company’s existence [P2] Early "heavy metal" Perforated F tinPerforated F TinA “heavy metal” Frisbie tin, likely of greater vintage than those of lighter weight retaining their shiny patina [P1] The best way to estimate the venerability of an F tin along with other varieties, is by its metal composition. Earlier F tins are noticeably heavy and solid with an “iron” feel to them, and with noticeable patina [P1]; later ones, lighter with a tin-like feel. “Newer” pie plates are also more likely to retain their silvery veneer [P2]. Harder to find F tins are the shallow shouldered ones of slightly less diameter than the “common” ones [P3].

Perforated F Restaurant tinPerforated F Restaurant Tin“Holy Grail” large diameter restaurant Frisbie tin featuring a rounded shoulder [P4]

Then, there is the “Holy Grail” Perforated F restaurant tin [P4]. This might provoke a religious experience if you are fortunate enough to snag one. At best, a handful are known to exist. These larger diameter tins held more pie and are presumed to have been employed in the higher volume restaurant trade. The one I found came completely by surprise, having followed a lead to a woman’s home in Vernon, Connecticut—there it was in her kitchen, the first Restaurant Frisbie pie plate I had ever laid my eyes on.

Now on to lettered Frisbie tins; these can be divided into two main categories—large letter (LL) and small letter (SL). The most familiar of the LL tins is the iconic six hole version with the central venting hole surrounded by five others [P5]. This is the one Hollywood replicated rather poorly in the third movie of the Back to the Future series [P6]. “Common” LL tins are largely differentiated by their vent holes, or lack of them. Along with the iconic six-holed tins, are "common" LL tins with the larger six vent holes that surround the tin's center [P7]. "Common" SL tins also have this pattern of venting holes, though the holes are smaller than their LL brethren [P8]. Then, there are those with no vent holes in both LL and SL styles [P9, P10]. Less common are the LL, 12 vent hole Frisbie tins [P11].

Large Letter, 6 HoleLarge Letter 6 Holes StarThe iconic Frisbie's Pies tin: square shouldered with 5 venting holes surrounding the 6th at the center [P5] Back to the Future Frisbie's Pies TinBack to the FutureReplica of the movie prop version of the Frisbie's Pies tin [P6] Large Letters 6 HolesLarge Letters 6 Holes HexThis tin has six larger holes in a circular (or hexagon) pattern, with no center hole [P7] Small Letter, 6 HoleSmall Letter 6 HolesClassic Small Letter, square shouldered Frisbie tin with 6 venting holes [P8]
Large Letter, No HoleLarge Letter No HolesThe standard LL pie tin, minus the venting holes [P9] Small Letter, No HolesSmall Letter No HolesSquare shouldered, Small Letter Frisbie tin with no venting holes [P10] Large Letter, 12 HoleLarge Letter 12 HolesFrisbie pie tin with 12 venting holes [P11] Small Letter Oblique ShoulderSmall Letter Oblique ShoulderOblique shouldered Frisbie tin with venting holes [P12]

The other main differentiating factor of tins is the slope and depth of their shoulders. So-called Square Shoulder tins are of the deep-dish variety tailored for apple/cherry/rhubarb, etc. pies. Shallower oblique and round-shouldered tins held custard style pies [P12].

Large Letter 5¢ DEPLarge Letter 5¢ DEPLarge Letter Frisbie tin with machine stamped 5¢ DEP. [P14] Small Letter DEPSmall Letter DEPA Small Letter Frisbie tin with machine stamped DEP. that has maintained a lot of its shiny patina [P13] Any Frisbie pie tin is a rare and welcome find, but there are varieties that range from scarce to almost impossible to procure. In the “harder to find” category are both LL and SL tins machine stamped with “DEP.” [P13] or “5¢ DEP.” [P14]. These were manufactured during the Depression/World War 2 era when metal became increasingly scarce, and as necessary to the war effort, even precious. Most would not bother bend the back to pick up a stray nickel today, but five cents was then incentive enough for people to return the metal Frisbie pans to redeem their deposit.

Rarer still are the reverse letter (RL) “DEP.” and “5¢ DEP” tins, again to be found in both LL and SL versions [P15–P18]. Frisbee legend, Jim Palmeri has said he’s particularly fond of the RL tins, because when flipped in throwing mode, “Frisbie” appears correctly.

Reversed Large Letter DEPReversed Large Letter DEPOne of a very few Large Letter Reverse DEP. Frisbie tins; the off center DEP. makes one wonder if for some reason, the 5¢ was omitted [P15] Reversed Large Letter 5¢ DEPReversed Large Letter 5¢ DEPReversed Large Letter, 5c DEP. Frisbie tin. Flip the reversed letter Frisbie tins over to flying mode, and Frisbie reads correctly {P16] Reversed Small Letter DEPReversed Small Letter DEPSmall Letter reversed, square shouldered DEP. Frisbie tin [P17] Reversed Small Letter 5¢ DEPReversed Small Letter 5¢ DEPSmall Letter reversed, square shouldered, 5¢ DEP. Frisbie tin [P18]

Very hard to find are hand-stamped Frisbie tins. These come in two varieties—a 5¢ DEP. hand stamp [P19], and those with a large, faintly inscribed “5.” [P20]. Due to the casually aimed hand placement of such imprimaturs, each of these Frisbie tins is unique which adds much to their value. “5¢ DEP.” hand stamps were applied to either side of Frisbie tins, so “backward” hand stamps exist on tins otherwise normally stamped [P21]. Any hand-stamped Frisbie tin is a rare find, but approaching “Holy Grail” veneration are hand stamped perforated F tins [P22].

Large Letter Hand Stamped 5¢ DEPLarge Letter Hand Stamped 5¢ DEPRare Large Letter, round shouldered Frisbie tin with a hand stamped 5¢ DEP [P19] Small Letter Hand Stamped 5Small Letter Hand Stamped 5A rare, crude hand stamped 5, representing 5¢ deposit that appears on an oblique shouldered, small letter Frisbie tin [P20] Large Letter 5¢ DEP ReversedLarge Letter 5¢ DEP ReversedLarge Letter, round shouldered Frisbie tin with a reverse 5¢ DEP. hand stamp; hand stamped tins have unique stamp placement, dependent on the casual whim of the stamper [P21] P1060268 F tin hand stamp 5 DEPPerforated F Tin Hand Stamped 5¢ DEPExtremely rare Perforated F tin with a hand stamped 5¢ DEP. also distinctive for its deep shoulder, rarely found in this style [P22]

What’s enticing about the chase for Frisbie Pie Company collectibles is you never know what you might find, though one must endure pawing through stack after stack of not so desirable Table Talk tins and the like, as you sneeze your way through dusty corners of flea markets and hole-in-the-wall thrift stores. But it is that occasional Holy Grail find that elevates the search to that rare mystical experience.

Is it a Frisbie?Is it a Frisbie?Small diameter, shallow shouldered tin found in Eastern Connecticut with a raised letter F, which remains a mystery as to its origin [P23] Then there is that occasional unearthed “What the heck—is this a Frisbie tin, or, what?” I came across this small diameter specimen in a trinkets shop not far from the Mohegan Sun casino complex in Connecticut [P23]. To this day, it remains filed in, ”the truth is out there,” unsolved mysteries section.

Perforated H Tin 5¢ DEPPerforated H Tin 5¢ DEPA version of the perforated H tin with a machine stamped 5¢ DEP [P25] Perforated H TinPerforated H TinOften found with batches of Frisbie tins—do these perforated H tins refer to Henry H. Olds who sold his bakery to W.R. Frisbie in 1871? [P24] Also beset by mystery are Perforated H tins [P24] that have been found mixed in with batches of Frisbie pie plates. Victor has speculated that the “H” stands for Henry H. Olds from whom W.R. Frisbie purchased his pie operation in 1871, founding the Frisbie Pie Company. Some “H” tins also come stamped with 5¢ DEP stamps [P25]. More sleuthing needed!

But nowadays, the chase is not quite what it used to be. It happened that my pursuit of everything Frisbie began just as everybody was first saddling up for the Internet, with a fledgling eBay just beginning to establish itself as an iconic presence. Much that one could once find randomly now gets funneled through eBay’s online marketplace, which has taken some of the thrill out of the chase. These days, a collector’s main challenge is to have nimble enough online skills to knab the quarry ahead of fast-fingered rivals.

Frisbie Pie CompanyPhoto of the Kossuth Street “Palace of Pie” published in Bridgeport Life in the summer of 1945 However, there is still that occasional find that one stumbles across, free of the clutches of the Internet. One such occurred in my hometown of Monson, Massachusetts, a few years ago during an annual town-wide tag sale. Looking through some old paper material, I came across copies of Bridgeport Life from the WW2 period and found an anniversary issue from 1945 where advertisers had placed congratulatory ads, including the Frisbie Pie Company. The pictured Kossuth Street Pie Palace is from a slightly different perspective than the iconic postcard of same.

Some of my most precious “Holy Grail” finds have come from the estate of Joseph J. Vaughn who was longtime plant manager for the Frisbie Pie Company. Some of this memorabilia ended up in the collection of Dan O’Conner of Bridgeport who now owns the Frisbie name, and who has done a wonderful job of reviving not only the iconic Frisbie pies which he distributes and sells, but most prominently has taken a period truck and authentically replicated it Frisbie style, to the former glory of pie dispensing days.

Rarest of the Rare: W R Frisbie BakeryRarest of the RareW. R. Frisbie, founder of the Frisbie Pie Company, is featured on this tin, the only one know to exist. This is before his son, Joseph P. Frisbie, expanded the company into the formidable force of pie that inadvertently launched a pastime. [P26] As a capstone to my collection, a few years ago, I contacted a possessor of Frisbie memorabilia including some from Vaughn’s estate and purchased the Holy Grail of all Frisbie tins—the only one known to exist. This shallow-shouldered pie plate dates to before Joseph P. Frisbie turned the pie maker into a factory operation with regional distribution.

His Frisbie founder father, who ran the company as more or less a Mom and Pop operation, is embossed on the tin: “W.R. Frisbie,” along with the bakery’s Kossuth Street address [P26]. The stamp is neither centered on the tin, nor is it evenly applied, with “Bridgeport CT” not legibly represented. Thus, this tin was very likely hand stamped—or was it perhaps an early, crude machine stamp? It’s been speculated, as only one of these is known to exist, that it along with any others, may have been specially made to be presented at early annual company award dinners, and the like.

Metal and glass Frisbie's Pies caseFrisbie's Pies CaseMetal and glass pie case Along with this Holy Grail item, the collector sold me a treasure’s trove of other Frisbie memorabilia, most notably a tall, metal/glass Frisbie pie case with lots of goodies inside. These included a number of photos, some original, relating to Frisbie operations including those of delivery trucks and women employees pumping out the pies, etc. within the Kossuth Street factory building.

Frisbie driver and truck, adrift in a white, frozen wasteland, February, 1934Frisbie driver and truck, adrift in a white, frozen wasteland, February, 1934 My favorite is a photo of a pie delivery truck dwarfed by great mounds of snow. The date on the back pinpoints this to February of 1934 when a merciless record cold snap on the east coast piled untold misery on top of the hopelessness of the depths of the Great Depression from which many felt they’d never dig out. On the heels of the record cold came a great blizzard impacting much of the east coast that everyone had to dig out of—as demonstrated by the intimidating drifts hemming in the Frisbie truck in this photo.

Of course, peak season for pie sales is the holidays, and the Frisbie Pie Company came up with fancy greeting cards depicting warm scenes of baking goings-on, to send out to vendors and customers. Appropriately corny verse described these homey scenes, no doubt further building appetites for Frisbie’s baked goods.

1939 Holiday Card1939 Holiday CardMerry Holiday greetings from the Frisbie Pie Company for 1939! Though ever renowned for pie, this verse demonstrates they were also no slouch when it came korn! 40th Year Holiday Card40th Year Holiday CardThe holidays are prime pie time, and the Frisbie Pie Company sent out cheerful reminders such as in this seasonal card from 1938—notice the reference to Roosevelt’s New Deal The assortment of Frisbie Pie Company memorabilia in various collectors’ hands includes Frisbie caps and jackets worn by drivers, coin holders, and cascading pie stands. I purchased one of these stands from a Bridgeport dealer on one of the Brimfield fields.

Wire Frisbie's Pies RackWire Frisbie's Pies RackCascading Frisbie pie rack, dutifully showcasing its tins One of my favorite Frisbie items is a very hard to find Frisbie pie cutter. There are also postcards, both of Bridgeport, Kossuth Street, Center of Piedom and another of the Hartford Frisbie bakery. (Frisbie also had factories and or distribution points in Providence, Rhode Island; Poughkeepsie, New York; and Springfield, Massachusetts.)

A variety of Frisbie Pie Company collectiblesA variety of Frisbie Pie Company collectibles Frisbie Pie Company's, Hartford, Connecticut OperationFrisbie Pie Company's, Hartford, Connecticut OperationAn early black and white postcard—its early vintage is easily determined as the young sapling in the foreground has grown into a mature tree in the better known color postcard depicting this same scene

Pie BagPie BagTo bag a Frisbie’s pie, you needed this! Frisbie's Pies AdFrisbie's Pies AdFrisbie Pie Company ad placed in Bridgeport Life in 1941 Pie MenuPie MenuFrisbie Pies list of available flavors

Also, hard to find and highly collectible are postcards of Frisbie delivery trucks. A delivery truck postcard I much regret passing on is one I came across at a Hadley, Massachusetts, flea market. It is the only one I’ve ever seen with the Frisbie Pie Company, Springfield, Massachusetts, distribution address printed on it.

My best find was of an iconic Frisbie photo that may well have been intended to be used as a postcard. I came across this in the same Brimfield antique shop where Victor and I stumbled upon the Frisbie pie case. It is of a Frisbie driver, circa mid 1920s, standing beside his truck, balancing two Frisbie’s pies in his hands. In the background is the small convenience store he is delivering to. It nicely illustrates the key elements of the pie process; the driver, his truck, the store, and the delicious product he delivers. The photo, taken in Manchester, Connecticut, is, as far as I know, the only one in existence. Phil Kennedy, with his graphic arts expertise, reproduced this in larger form for a limited print edition, a few of which I still have.

Pies, pieman, and Frisbie’s Pies truck; Manchester, Connecticut; circa mid-1920sMaking a DeliveryPies, pieman, and Frisbie’s Pies truck; Manchester, Connecticut; circa mid-1920s Frisbie’s Pies distribution system from the late 19th centuryBy Horse and WagonFrisbie’s Pies distribution system from the late 19th century It’s Joseph P. Frisbie who now endorses trucks as his beasts of pie burden!Truck EndorserIt’s Joseph P. Frisbie who now endorses trucks as his beasts of pie burden!

In addition to the crucial connection to our flying disc pastimes, Frisbie memorabilia is also worth collecting for its representation of American entrepreneurial drive and innovation. As a deep-rooted New Englander with Frisbee flowing through my veins, the Frisbie Pie Company marks a logical and sentimental intersection of both. It was Yankee ingenuity that spawned the Industrial Revolution. Even small streams were utilized for hydropower for innovative industrial uses. I now live on one that once had several mills along its course. One was on my property that powered a shingle making operation in the original structure that now constitutes the basement of our home.

Bridgeport, ConnecticutBridgeport, ConnecticutFrom another ad in Bridgeport Life—an early 20th century panorama of Bridgeport in its industrial glory, busy smokestacks as far as the eye can see. Much of the former might of industry is gone now, the smoke rising from the stacks replaced in some peoples minds, by the much cleaner flight of the Frisbee. In a rising America, industrial cities like Bridgeport, Connecticut, were the glory of manifest destiny where the billowing smokestacks of thriving industries signposted innovative pride of manufacture and gainful employment. This was long before, when for a variety of reasons, many industrial centers across the east and Midwest deteriorated to rust belts—as simultaneously, to an increasingly environmentally aware America, the belching smokestacks came to represent a clear and present danger.

The Frisbie Pie Company thrived in Bridgeport’s industrial days of glory; it too a story of Yankee Ingenuity. And for us who fling plastic, the Frisbie Pie Company is generic to the developing roots of our pastime: first were the Frisbie drivers scaling the tins. This closely contained epidemic then went regionally viral as “Spheroid Metallicus” spread to college students all over New England. They’d scale anything pie tin/lid-like they could get their hands on, which developed into a spreading contagion they called “Frisbieing.”

Simultaneously, the west coast experienced a separate but related flare up of flinging, first with metal but soon finding its eternal host in plastic. This developing strain known as "Spheroid Plasticus" marked the birth of a pastime, but a pastime sorely in need of a catchy name to match the soar of its namesakes. Hard to imagine tossers exclaiming, “Let’s go out and play some Pluto Platter!”

Well, that issue was resolved into a permanent affliction of fun, as the viral strains, east coast and west, became forever joined in Wham-O’s trademarked “Frisbee.” Frisbee strains continue to replicate and mutate to this day in the ever-ongoing viral ingenuity of, “Play catch, invent games!” This is why collectors ever persist in hot pursuit of pie—Frisbie’s pie.

Flying disc play, seemingly forever, has been a fringe sport dear to the hearts of a relatively few “Frisbee Freaks.” But now, at least in part, in reaction to people looking for alternatives to our long covid isolation, disc sports, in particular disc golf, are no longer the obscure refuge of a select few. Our delightful pastimes are now with trembling hands passed on to the masses. This makes documenting the history of flying disc play and its origins in the likes of the Frisbie Pie Company, more essential now than ever.


About the Author:
Davis "Dave" JohnsonDavis "Dave" Johnson

Davis Johnson, born in Boston, came into the world wanting to throw and has spent his entire life scratching that itch. When Frisbees flew into his life, he simply wanted to throw them—far. That translated to farthest in the 1970s when he held multiple world distance titles, including becoming the first to throw over 400 feet. Dave is a published poet and songwriter and is “retired” after 30 years teaching writing, speech and journalism at a community college. He’s also worked as a radio weathercaster, and motivational speaker. Dave’s also an author, having written and published a children’s book, and he edited Victor Malafronte’s The Complete Book of Frisbee. When comes time to be sorted into the Cosmic Compost Bin, Dave prides himself on being 100% recyclable; his titanium hip replacements to the metal bin, teeth implants to the plastics. The rest he gives back to the stars.

 


Comments

Kraig Steffen(non-registered)
And I personally have seen him actually Throw a pie tin somewhere around 200'!! The are extremely understable, you have to drop the left edge to vertical or past vertical to get any kind of long glide. (To be truthful, we had a stack of table talk tins for the throwing contest, didn't want to bang up actual Frisbie tins!)

He did this at the Bridgeport Frisbie Festivals I ran back a number of years ago!
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