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Fascinating facts about the invention
of
Scrabble by Alfred Butts in 1948.
SCRABBLE®

SCRABBLE®
inventor
Alfred Butts
What has 100 tiles...225 squares...a multi-colored board...and millions of fans of all ages, backgrounds and locales?
The answer, of course, is SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game which took America by storm in the early 1950s-and has continued to grow in popularity.  In 1931 Alfred Butts translated his lifelong love of crossword puzzles into a board game.   Mr. Butts, attempting to create a game that would use both chance and skill, combined features of anagrams and the crossword puzzle-and called his new game "Criss Cross Words."
The game was strictly a home entertainment for his family and friends.  Many of the friends to whom Mr. Butts supplied handmade sample  But the established game manufacturers to whom he submitted his invention were unanimous in rejecting it for commercial development. Mr. Butts, again busy as an architect, put aside his efforts to develop the game.

In 1948, Mr. and Mrs. James Brunot, owners of one of the original Criss Cross Words sets, thought the game should be marketed. Brunot had made one or two changes to the game, including the rule about starting across the middle instead of in the top left corner, and, perhaps more inspirationally, changing the name to Scrabble.

Mr. Butts authorized the Brunots to manufacture the game  Under a new arrangement between the two, Brunot would manufacture and market the newly named game through his business facility, the Production and Marketing Company. The first four years were a struggle. Mr. Brunot kept his regular job. In 1949, the Brunots made 2,400 sets and lost $450. However, year by year, the orders increased as news about the game spread, mainly by word of mouth.Then, in 1952, the Brunots left for a trip to Kentucky, returning to find their little factory deluged with orders. Obviously, the game was no fad.

They licensed Selchow and Righter Company, a well-known game manufacturer, to market and distribute the games in the United States and Canada. Even Selchow and Righter had to step up production to meet the overwhelming demand for the SCRABBLE game. In 1972, Selchow and Righter purchased the trademark SCRABBLE from Brunot, thereby giving them the exclusive rights to all SCRABBLE Brand products and entertainment services in the United States and Canada.

Sales have gone steadily upwards, and today SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game is one of the leading board games in America, and by far the most popular word game. Today, Scrabble ranks (just below Monopoly) as the second best-selling game in U. S. history.

In April of 1993 the game's inventor Alfred Mosher Butts died at the age of 93. During 1995, historian Jeffrey Saunders of Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, uncovered some materials that prompted the SCRABBLE® world to rethink the original "invention" date of the game. While Alfred Butts was clearly tinkering with word game ideas as early as 1931, it's now believed he may not have focused on the board game idea which led to SCRABBLE® until a few years later. In the summer of 1996, the Butts family, the National SCRABBLE® Association and the Milton Bradley Company agreed to conduct a formal study to determine the correct chronology. Many believe 1938 may emerge as a more accurate date.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
History of Toys and Games   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle: And Other Surprising Stories About Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson / Paperback - 128 pages
(1999) / Puffin
Brief factual stories about how various familiar things were invented, many by accident, from animal crackers to the zipper.
Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs

Everything Scrabble
by Joe Edley, John D. Williams (Contributor) / Paperback - 280 pages / Pocket Books - 1995
This book opens with an introduction to the game, follows up with instruction on advanced play, and ends with valuable information for those preparing for tournament-level competition. Exercise puzzles are included so you can practice what you learn.
The Official SCRABBLE (r) Players Dictionary, Third Edition
By Merriam Webster / Hardcover - 693 pages / Merriam Webster -1995
Authorized by the makers of Scrabble Brand crossword games, this newly revised and updated edition is the book that millions of Scrabble players call their bible. You'll want this invaluable reference at your side every time you get ready to play Scrabble Brand crossword games.
The Official Scrabble Puzzle Book
by Joe Edley / Paperback - 304 pages / Pocket Books - 1997
Calling all players, beginners and experts alike! Here are the plays you can't afford to miss: 800 puzzles to sharpen your thinking and hone your crossword skills, specially designed and selected by SCRABBLE superstar Joe Edley.
The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers, from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit
by Philip E. Orbanes / Hardcover: 256 pages / Harvard Business School Press (November 14, 2003)
In 1883, George Parker was 16 years old, and he liked to play board games. But he and his friends were tired of the "heavy-handed moral lessons" of the typical board game, and George, an inventive young man, created his own game, called Banking (chartered banks were a relatively new thing in the U.S., and people were fascinated by the whole subject).

ON THE WEB:
Scrabble Official Site
All intellectual property rights in and to the game are owned in the U.S.A and Canada by Hasbro Inc., and throughout the rest of the world by J.W. Spear & Sons Limited of Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, a subsidiary of Mattel Inc. Mattel and Spear are not affiliated with Hasbro.
(URL: www.scrabble.com/)

History of Scrabble
In 1947, James Brunot re-entered the picture. Brunot had made one or two changes to the game, including the rule about starting across the middle instead of in the top left corner, and, perhaps more inspirationally, changing the name to Scrabble.
(URL: www.askoxford.com/wordgames/scrabble/)
Scrabble History

The story of SCRABBLE is a classic example of American innovation and perseverance.
(URL: www.hasbro.com/scrabble/pl/page.history/dn/home.cfm
)
National SCRABBLE® Association's
Since 1978, it is the official organization of North America's 10,000 tournament SCRABBLE® players.
(URL: www.scrabble-assoc.com/)
Helga's Scrabble Rogue Gallery
the unofficial homepage for tournament players.
(URL: www.seeknet.com/)

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • The boards for his first Criss Cross Words game were hand drawn with his architectural drafting equipment, reproduced by blueprinting and pasted on folding checker boards. The tiles were similarly hand-lettered, then glued to 1/4 inch balsa and cut to match the squares on the board.
  • One of their first concerns was protecting the game through a unique brand name.The Brunots and their friends made up long lists of potential trademarks. SCRABBLE® Brand Crossword Game came out with top honors and was cleared legally.
  • SCRABBLE. The name, which means "to grope frantically," was trademarked in 1948.
  • At one time the opening word was played near the upper left corner of the board.
  • In the summer of 1995 the first $100,000 SCRABBLE® Superstars was held in Las Vegas with the top 50 rated players.
  • The National SCRABBLE® Association sanctions over 150 SCRABBLE® tournaments in the U.S. and Canada every year and over 200 official SCRABBLE® clubs.
  • The world's largest SCRABBLE® board is nearly eight feet square, it was constructed by the Milton Bradley Company.
SCRABBLE® is a registered trademark. All intellectual property rights in and to the game are owned  by Hasbro Inc., Hasbro Canada Inc. and by J.W. Spear & Sons, PLC.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised April, 2005.
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