A Brief History of Scrabble

A Brief History of Scrabble

The fantastic game of Scrabble was developed in the stressful times of the Great Depression in 1938 by an unemployed architect from New York. Alfred Mosher Butts came up with the idea of a pleasant time-spending during such a dark period in the history of the United States. So, he basically combined three different entertainments, namely board games, number games, and letter games such as crosswords. Then he chose the frequency and the distribution of the tiles by counting letters on the pages of major newspapers. The inventor tried to file the patent twice but failed. Besides, he constantly changed the name and rules of the game until he finally came up with the name Criss-Cross Words. 

Bringing the Concept to Life

James BrunotThe game gained popularity only when Butts met James Brunot, who designed the famous color scheme of the package, introduced the 50-point bonus for using all seven tiles to make up a word, and coined the name Scrabble. Soon they started to make first games for sale at an abandoned schoolhouse in Connecticut. They managed to create around 12 games per hour with the help of a couple of friends. They hit the jackpot when one of the games was discovered by the Macy’s chairman, who liked it and wanted to stock his shelves with Scrabble. The huge popularity had come after that and the game was sold in 4 million copies in 1954 alone.

In 1971, the ownership rights on the game were sold to Selchow&Richter, a well-established game producer, for a big amount of money back then. Butts got $265,000 in royalties, while Brunot was paid around $1.5 million. So, the exclusive right for all Scrabble brand products and other services in the entertainment industry were transmitted to the company. Although, in approximately 10 years, Coleco Industries Inc., the manufacturer of the popular Cabbage Patch Dolls, acquired Selchow&Richter after it collapsed. Coleco Industries Inc. announced its bankruptcy three years later and had to sell its most valuable assets such as the Scrabble game and Parcheesi to Hasbro Inc., the biggest game producer in the US. 

Today the Scrabble game can be found in almost every house around the world in different versions (standard, deluxe, travel-sized) and editions (Junior, Electronic Scoring, etc). The game still remains one of the best family activities over and seems here to stay for at least another 50 years. 

The Game Must Go On

As this game is so popular and conquers the hearts of new players every year, there have appeared lots of tournaments, including World Scrabble Championship and National Scrabble Championship, and North American Scrabble Championship. The WSC is the most desired Scrabble title in the world. The competition took place every second year in 1991-2013 but then began to be an annual thing. The event used to be sponsored by Hasbro and Mattel in alternate order, but since 2005 Mattel remains the single sponsor of all tournaments. More than 30 countries compete in this championship to get the title of World Scrabble Champion.

Scrabble Championship

National Scrabble Championship is held in the United Kingdom every year since it was created in 1971. Everything started with Gyles Brandreth, who saw the Royal Family playing Scrabble on a TV show and places an ad in the local newspaper inviting everyone to take part in a National Scrabble Championship. Many people reached out to him and the tournament was established. Of course, the format, rules, sponsors, and other minor details changed over time but the concept is still the same. The championship is divided into two divisions according to the ratings of players, while the number of wins and total spread determine leaderboards.

The largest Scrabble competition in North America is held by the North American Scrabble Players Association since 2009. However, the first tournaments in the US were arranged by Joel Skolnick in the 1970s, who turned to Selchow & Righter in order to open the first tournament. The supreme power was given to the Funk and Wagnalls Collegiate Dictionary to rule on some controversial disputes. The first national tournament took place in 1978 and is known as the North American Invitational. Two years later, the first Official Scrabble Players Dictionary was published. 

Interesting Facts About Scrabble

Scrabble Love on the WorldThe game has been translated into over 50 popular languages, including Arabic and Welsh, and is played in at least 121 countries. It is worth mentioning that in the French version of the game, all players perform each turn with the same number of letters. It is called Duplicate Scrabble. 

Some people remember a huge scandal that happened in 1994 when Hasbro revealed its plan to exclude around 200 words off the Scrabble dictionary because they were too offensive. Eventually, the company had to publish two officially sanctioned dictionaries. The first was created for school students, while another one (with bad words) was used at tournaments and other official events. 

Do you know that there is a world that can bring you 1782 points at once? This word is Oxyphenbutazone. To claim the points, it has to be placed across the top of the board, hitting three Triple Word Score squares and making seven crosswords downward.   

Scrabble was included in the American National Toy Hall of Fame in 2004, as one of the most popular games in the United States. Along with Scrabble, there are many other well-known and appraised games such as Lego, Monopoly, The Game Boy, and Etch A Scratch on the list.  

The board game is popular not only among school children and university students. Such celebrities as Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kate Hudson, Kylie Minogue, and even the Queen of England have also turned out to be fans of Scrabble. If you also like this game, you have one more common hobby with your favorite movie star.

As we came into the new era of digital technologies, the board game also must have developed. Thus, we can play Scrabble online with people from any part of the world using our iPhones and iPads thanks to Electronic Arts company that purchased a license for the game. 

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