SCRABBLE® Word Game History

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SCRABBLE® is not just another board game. This quality word game has stood the test of time and expanded into SCRABBLE® online versions to stay current with demands.

The Great Depression brought many changes that influenced the world. SCRABBLE® was one of those changes. In 1931, Albert Mosher Butts, (April 13, 1899-April 4, 1993) was an unemployed architect living in Poughkeepsie, New York. He wanted to invent a game and researched what type of games existed and what was popular. His desire to combine vocabulary skills with crossword puzzles, blended well with the element of chance was destined to be a hit.

Research for Success

Albert Butts studied the front page of the New York Times to calculate how often each letter of the alphabet was used. He discovered that vowels appeared more often than consonants. After calculating the frequency of use, Butts assigned different point values to each letter and the quantity of each letter that would be in his game. Having great cryptographic analysis of the English language along with his original tile distribution has proven to be a successful formula for many decades.

Originally, the game he invented was named Lexico, but shortly after changed it to Criss-Cross Words. The boards for the first Criss-Cross word game were hand drawn with his architectural drafting equipment, reproduced by blueprinting and pasted on folding boards. The tiles were hand-lettered, glued to quarter-inch balsa and cut to match the squares on the board.

Marketing

As most inventors experienced in those days, Albert’s first attempts at selling his game failed. He and his partner, James Brunot, refined the rules and design then re-named it, SCRABBLE® . The word “scrabble” before becoming a game, was known only as a verb and a noun. As a noun, the meaning was and still is “a scrawled or scribbled writing”. SCRABBLE® became a proper noun in 1948 when it was trademarked.

The first factory that manufactured SCRABBLE® was an abandoned schoolhouse in Dodgington, Connecticut, producing twelve games per hour. The letters were stamped on wooden tiles one at a time. The first four years were very difficult and brought financial hardship. In 1949, 2,400 sets were made and they lost $450.

In 1952, Jack Strauss, president of Macy’s, discovered the game while on vacation. Within one year, SCRABBLE® word games were in high demand and being rationed to stores across the U.S. Brunot realized they no longer could meet consumer demands. People loved to play SCRABBLE®.

Selchow and Richter Company, a well-known game manufacturer that was founded in 1867, was brought on board to help manufacture SCRABBLE® . Selchow and Richter increased production to keep up with orders coming in from the U.S. and Canada. In 1972, Selchow and Richter purchased the trademark SCRABBLE®, thereby giving them exclusive rights to all SCRABBLE® products and entertainment services in the U.S. and Canada.

Today

The SCRABBLE® craze evolved and many variations of this game appeared from revolving turntables, pocket editions for travelers, a junior version for children, foreign language versions and more. Books were written detailing game strategies and a SCRABBLE® Dictionary emerged. As the internet gained momentum, online versions such as SCRABBLE® Blast became common.

Today, over one hundred million SCRABBLE® games have been sold world-wide. Almost two million games are sold every year across North America alone. SCRABBLE® has truly stood the test of time.