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History of Scrabble

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Wordsmiths from around the country and around the world have come to know and love the game of Scrabble, but how much do you know about the origins of this unique game?  The history of scrabble is a fascinating one, and a subject that Scrabble lovers can learn about and discuss at their next tournament.

Born from Lexiko in 1938

The history of Scrabble dates all the way back to 1938, when an architect by the name of Alfred Mosher Butts came up with a variation on an existing game called Lexiko.  Lexiko and the newly invented game used the same set of lettered tiles, but Mr. Butts carefully worked out assigned point values for each of those tiles based on word usage from a number of sources

This new game was not originally known as Scrabble. Instead it went by the name of Criss-Crosswords, with the name changed down the road. The new game included a 15” x 15” game board and the crossword style play for which the game of Scrabble is known.

The inventor of the game tried unsuccessfully to sell the new game to a number of major manufacturers but met with little success, and the story of Scrabble could have ended at that point.

First success after 1948

Later, in 1948 a man by the name of James Brunot purchased the rights to manufacture the Criss-Crosswords game. In exchange for selling the rights to the game of Scrabble Mr. Butts agreed to get a royalty for each game sold.  Brunot made few changes to the design of the original Criss-Crosswords game, with the most significant being to rearrange the premium squares on the board.

The name changed to Scrabble

Perhaps the most important change Brunot made was the name of the game. The former Criss-Crosswords name was gone, replaced with the Scrabble moniker so familiar to game players today.

The history of Scrabble at Macy’s

Now the exclusive owner of the game of Scrabble, Brunot spent much of 1949 making games. More than 2,000 Scrabble games were manufactured in 1949, but still Brunot lost money. His big break would come three years later in 1952, when then president of Macy’s Jack Strauss played the game while on vacation. Mr. Strauss was surprised to learn that his vaunted store did not carry Scrabble, and he promptly placed a large order for this soon to be must have game.

Scrabble was sold a lot

Within a year of this large order the game became a huge hit, and Mr. Brunot was no longer able to keep up with demand in his makeshift factory. The manufacturing rights were sold to Selchow and Righter, a firm who had ironically turned down the game initially.

The rights to the game of Scrabble remained with Selchow and Righter until 1986, when the game was sold to Coleco.  After Coleco went bankrupt Hasbro purchased a number of the company’s assets, including rights to the wildly popular Scrabble game.

The history of Scrabble doesn’t end here. You probably purchased a box of this famous word game.

Anything you want to know about the history of Scrabble? Leave us a comment and we will try to add it to our article.

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2 Responses

  1. Is there a site that shows pictures and gives descriptions of the different styles of boxes these games came in? i.e. what does a box the game came in look like in 1952 or 53 and any evolution’s of box design from then on? I would like to collect these vintage games but not sure which year I am looking at when I see one. Your response would be appreciated. Greg Cohill

    • Hi Greg, sorry, but I don’t know such a site. Did you already find some information yourself? I would be glad if you could share them so we might compile them into one article.

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