facts about the invention
of Scrabble by Alfred
Butts in 1948.
|What has 100 tiles...225
squares...a multi-colored board...and millions of fans of all ages, backgrounds and
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
|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
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.
Toys and Games from The
Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
The story of SCRABBLE is a classic example of American innovation and perseverance.
Since 1978, it is the official organization of North America's 10,000 tournament
Helga's Scrabble Rogue Gallery
the unofficial homepage for tournament players.
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
- 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®
- 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.
Sources in BOLD Type
page revised April, 2005.
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