The early days (late 1960s)
While the exact origins of ultimate contain some debate and uncertainty, it is generally believed that teenagers from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey were the first to play the precursor to ultimate initially as an evening pastime. Joel Silver proposed a school Frisbee team on a whim in the fall of 1968. The following spring, a group of students got together to play what Silver claimed to be the "ultimate sports experience," adapting the game from a form of Frisbee football, likely learned from Jared Kass while attending a summer camp at Northfield Mount Hermon, Massachusetts where Kass was teaching. Kass came up with the name "ultimate", when asked by a student, on the whim that it was the ultimate sport. Kass created the game with a group of friends while at Amherst College. The students who played and codified the rules at Columbia High School were an eclectic group of students including leaders in academics, student politics, the student newspaper, and school dramatic productions. The sport became identified as a counter culture activity. The first definitive history of the sport was published in December 2005, "ULTIMATE--The First Four Decades."
While the rules governing movement and scoring of the disc have not changed, the early Columbia High games had sidelines that were defined by the parking lot of the school and team sizes based on the number of players that showed up. Gentlemanly behavior and gracefulness were held high. (A foul was defined as contact "sufficient to arouse the ire of the player fouled.") No referees were present, which remarkably still holds true today as all ultimate matches (even at high level events) are self-officiated. At higher levels of play 'observers' are often present. Observers only make calls when appealed to by one of the teams, at which point the result is binding.
Ultimate goes to college - 1970
The first collegiate ultimate club was formed by Joel Silver when he arrived at Lafayette College in 1970.
The first intercollegiate competition was held at Rutgers' New Brunswick campus between Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1972, the 103rd anniversary of the first intercollegiate game of American football featuring the same schools competing in the same location.
By 1975, dozens of colleges had teams, and in April of that year players organized the first ever ultimate tournament, an eight-team invitational called the "Intercollegiate Ultimate Frisbee Championships," to be played at Yale. Rutgers beat Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), 26-23, in the finals.
By 1976, teams were popping up in areas outside the Northeast. A 16-team single elimination tournament was set up, at Amherst, Massachusetts, to include 13 East Coast teams and 3 Midwest teams. Rutgers again took the title, beating Hampshire College in the finals. Penn State and Princeton were the other semi-finalists. While it was called the "National Ultimate Frisbee Championships", ultimate was starting to appear in the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara area.
Penn State hosted the first five-region National Ultimate Championships in May of 1979. There were five regional representatives, three college and two club teams. They were as follows: Cornell University-(Northeast), Glassboro State-(Middle Atlantic), Michigan State-(Central), Orlando Fling-(South), Santa Barbara Condors-(West). Each team played the other in a round robin format to produce a Glassboro-Condors final. The Condors had gone undefeated up to this point, however Glassboro prevailed 19-18 to become the 1979 National Champions. They repeated as champions in 1980 as well.
Ultimate spreads to clubs and internationally - 1976
In California clubs were sprouting in the LA - Santa Barbara area, while in the east, where the game developed at the high school and college level, the first college graduates were beginning to found club teams, such as the Philadelphia Frisbee Club, the Washington Area Frisbee Club, the Knights of Nee in NJ, the Hostages in Boston and so forth.
In the same year, ultimate arrived in the United Kingdom, with clubs forming at the University of Warwick, University of Southampton, University of Cambridge, University of Leicester, and University of Bradford.
Ultimate gets organized - the UPA - 1979-80
In 1979 and 1980 the Ultimate Players Association was formed. The UPA organized regional tournaments and has crowned a national champion every year since 1979.
The popularity of the game quickly spread, taking hold as a free-spirited alternative to traditional organized sports. In recent years college ultimate has attracted a greater number of traditional athletes, raising the level of competition and athleticism, and providing a challenge to its laid back, free-spirited roots.
Content borrowed under Copyleft from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultimate_frisbee#History