Did you know you have something in common with Mel Gibson, Sting, Keanu Reeves, Robert Palmer, Joan Collins And Queen Elizabeth II ?
You all play a game that's sold in 121 countries around the world.
Over 100 million sets of the game have been sold in 29 different languages making it easily the world's best selling word game.
No prizes for guessing we're talking about Scrabble®. After all, this is the Scrabble®-Interactive Website!
To long-term devotees of the game and new fans alike, a very warm welcome.
To tellyou about the incredible history of Scrabble® - a case of truth being stranger than fiction.
THE ARCHITECT OF THE GAME WAS AN ARCHITECT
In 1931, Poughkeepsie in New York State was in a similar predicament to the rest of the USA ....deep in the depths of the depression.
There was no job security. Living on your wits was the order of the day.
And so when the local architect , Alfred Mosher Butts, lost his job he decided to explore his passion for games and words.
Mild-mannered, bespectacled Butts disliked dice games. They were all down to luck. On the other hand, he felt that all-skill games, like chess, were too highbrow for the general public.
HALF LUCK, HALF SKILL
So he set out to devise a game that was half luck, half skill. And by the end of 1931 he had developed the initial idea for the game, which he called Lexico.
Lexico was played without a board and players scored on the basis of the lengths of the words formed. There were additional scores for words employing 'minor honours' (B, F, H, M, P, V, W, Y) and a higher additional score for major honours (J, K, Q, X, Z).
Butts calculated the letter frequency and value of each letter of the alphabet by meticulously combing the front page of the New York Times.
He reasoned that too many S's made the game too easy. So he reduced them to 4.
In 1933, Butts' application for a patent for Lexico was turned down. Similarly, when he submitted the game to two games manufacturers, Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley, all he received were polite refusals. Undeterred, over the next 5 years Butts made nearly 200 games himself which he gave or sold to friends. But that was as far as Lexico went. It wasn't a commercial success.
1938 saw Butts make a big breakthrough in developing the game.
The popularity of crosswords gave Butts the idea of combining the letters with a playing board, on which words could be joined in the manner of a crossword.
Lexico became New Anagrams, Alph, Criss-Cross then Criss-Crosswords.
The boards for the first Criss-Crosswords games were drawn with his architectural drafting equipment, reproduced by blue printing and pasted on folding chessboards.
The tiles were similarly hand lettered, then glued to quarter inch plywood and cut to match the squares on the board.
Through the years that followed, the game changed in its development. For example, at one time the opening word was placed near the upper left-hand corner of the board.
However, several of Butts original features have remained. The 15 by 15 square board and the 7-tile rack were original features. Also the distribution and the values of the letters remain unchanged from 1938 to this day.
But Criss-Crosswords met the same flat refusals as Lexico. The patent board turned him down again. And so did more games manufacturers. A decision they were collectively going to regret !
Butts thought briefly about becoming a manufacturer. But he cheerily acknowledged that he was no entrepreneur and returned to being an architect. And with the intervention of the Second World War, Butts didn't consider further development until 1948.
Then came the big breakthrough in the shape of James Brunot, an owner of one of the first Criss-Crosswords games.
The Brunots were intrigued by the game and believed it should be marketed. What's more, James Brunot had the time and inclination to make a commercial venture of it.
They shook hands on a deal. In return for allowing Brunot to manufacture the game, Butts would receive a royalty on every game sold.
The Brunots decided that the game needed a few finishing touches.
They rearranged the premium squares and simplified the rules, which were overly long and reconsidered the name of the game. Then they lodged a Copyright application, which was granted on 1 December, 1948.
Soon after, came the all important name change! After much searching, they decided upon the name Scrabble® for the game and managed to register the trademark on 16 December, 1948.
The modern game of Scrabble® was born at last !
The Brunots initially set up shop in the living room of their home in Newtown, Connecticut.
Brunot bought the parts of his finished product from various manufacturers and assembled them there with the help of his wife. At first, they turned out just 18 games a day, painstakingly stamping letters on wooden tiles one at a time.
During 1949, their first year of production, they assembled and sold 2251 games in this way, losing $450 in the process. They continued to struggle in the years that followed.
By 1952, they were still losing money and ready to abandon the project. Brunot took a holiday to think things over.
He returned to find that word-of-mouth recommendation had brought in a deluge of orders. It was time to move to bigger premises, so they found an abandoned schoolhouse near their home in Connecticut and moved in.
In the fourth quarter, sales reached 37,000 units.
1952 was also the year that Jack Strauss, the Chairman of Macy's, New York, the biggest department store in the world, played Scrabble® whilst on holiday. He enjoyed playing it so much that on his return to New York, he asked the Games Department to send him up a few sets. The precise exchange can only be guessed at. But the Games Department had to own up to not stocking Scrabble®. They very soon did! What's more, Macy's supported a promotional campaign with the result that the game quickly captured the imagination of thousands. By 1953, although by now making 6,000 sets a week, it became clear to Brunot that he couldn't match the demand for Scrabble®. So he licensed the manufacture to Selchow and Righter, a leading American games manufacturer, who had previously rejected it.
For three years, orders had to be rationed. Demand just went up and up. Meanwhile, the Scrabble® craze spread to Australia in 1953. In the same year, it was launched in the UK by J.W. Spear & Sons, where the game was an instant success. Brunot eventually sold off the rights to Scrabble® in 1968 and Spear's acquired the rights to the world, outside of the USA, Canada and Australia. (However, they managed to pick up the Australian rights at a later date.) The rights to the game remain split in this way to this day. In 1986, Selchow and Righter sold out to Coleco who promptly went bankrupt in 1987. So it was that 53 years after turning the game down, the rights for Scrabble® in the USA and Canada were purchased by Milton Bradley. 1991 saw the first world championship take place in London. The second was held in New York City in 1993. Regrettably, James Brunot died in October 1984. So he didn't live to see the first championship. But Alfred Butts did. He lived to be 93, passing away in April 1993. He took pleasure in playing his game with family and friends to the end of his life. And this modest, unassuming man lived to see his brainchild become a worldwide phenomenon.