One of the most loved and well-known word games is Scrabble. Almost every household has a set as it is a good way to bond with your family as well as to sharpen one’s vocabulary skills. Many know how to play the game, but not a lot are aware of the history of Scrabble. According to Scrabble history, the game wasn’t an overnight success; like many stories behind successful products, the history of scrabble includes a central idea, manufacturing and production dilemmas, and eventual popularity.
The History of Scrabble – the Beginning
In 1938, in the middle of the Great Depression, a then unemployed architect from New York made the decision to create a board game. Alfred Mosher Butts was able to determine that there were three kinds of games: move games, number games, and word games. Move games include checkers and chess, while number games include Sodoku and bingo. Word games, on the other hand, include anagrams and crosswords, and this game category is where Butts concentrated. He wanted a game that was a combination of anagrams and crossword puzzles, involving both skill and chance. Originally called Lexico, the game’s name was later changed to Criss-Cross Words.
How was Scrabble created?
Scrabble is composed of 15×15 gameboard and tiles that have a letter on each of them. To come up with the game’s letter distribution, Butts patiently and thoroughly calculated the frequency by which each letter of the English alphabet appeared on the New York Times’ front page. He found out that vowels, especially the letter “E,” appear more than consonants. Based on how often they are used, he assigned various point values to each letter. Hence, those that are commonly used are worth a point each, while less frequently used ones have higher values. For example, the letters “Q” and “Z” are worth 10 points each. In addition, Butts limited the number of “S” tiles to only four to minimize the creation of plural nouns, making the game even more challenging. There were also two blank tiles that could stand for any letter, but do not have any point value.
At first, the boards were hand-drawn and were multiplied via blueprinting. They were then glued to folding checkerboards. The tiles were also hand-lettered, pasted on balsa, and then cut corresponding to the squares on the board. Butt’s initial attempts to market his game failed as successful game manufacturers rejected the commercial development of his creation. However, in 1948, Butt met an entrepreneur who was also a game enthusiast and who owned the original Criss-Cross Words game. James Brunot became part of the history of Scrabble by purchasing the manufacturing rights of the game as well as granting Butts a royalty for each unit that was sold. Now partners, they improved the game’s rules, design, and name – they changed it to Scrabble, a real word that means “to grope around madly.” In 1949, Brunot and his family manufactured Scrabble sets in a rented former schoolhouse. They produced a dozen games in one hour, with the letters stamped on wooden tiles one at a time.
Unfortunately, despite the help and improved manufacturing of the game, they still lost money. However, Scrabble history continued on, slowly but surely. The game slowly rose in popularity, and by the 1950s, it is believed that Macy’s then president, Jack Straus, discovered Scrabble while on vacation. He was surprised that his store wasn’t selling the game, so he ordered quite a number of Scrabble units, and within one year, a lot of people felt they just had to own one.
Because of the increase in demand, Brunot licensed Selchow and Righter to manufacture the game. In 1972, the company trademarked the game, allowing them to have exclusive rights on all products carrying the Scrabble brand in America and Canada. In 1955, Scrabble started to be sold in the UK and in Australia by JW Spears. In 1986, Selchow and Righter was bought by Coleco, but became bankrupt after three years. Later on, Scrabble was bought by Hasbro.
Nowadays, a Scrabble set can be found in one of every three US homes as well as widespread availability of Scrabble apps and online Scrabble. The game also has various versions like Standard, Deluxe Travel, Deluxe with turntable, etc. Scrabble competitions have also graced the scene such as the National Scrabble Championship held annually in a major American city and the World Scrabble Championship held every other year. Moreover, the National Scrabble Association authorizes more than 180 tournaments and over 200 clubs in the States and in Canada. In fact, the popularity of the game has so increased that one can even find Scrabble cheats online!
More and more people, especially children, continue to play Scrabble every day. Knowing the history of Scrabble certainly increases the interest people have for the game. In other words, the history of Scrabble makes it worth scrabbling for.