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The origin of SCRABBLE dates back to the 1930s
when Alfred Mosher Butts, an architect by trade, had an idea for a board game.
Originally called "Lexico," then "Criss-Cross Words," Butts sought to combine
the vocabulary and anagrammatic challenges of word games with the elements of
chance and strategy inherent to many board games.
The first critical decision was how frequently to
distribute each letter. Wanting the game to reflect actual English usage, Butts
meticulously counted by hand how often each letter in the alphabet appeared on
the front page of The New York Times over a period of time.
Though this method was time consuming, and some might say inefficient, it has proven to be valid. Butts' letter distribution has remained unchanged since the game was introduced -- including his decision to include only four "S" tiles in an effort to limit the use of plurals.
With handmade boards and tiles, Butts tried to
drum up interest in his Criss-Cross Words game from manufacturers, but to no
avail. With his partner, James Brunot, Butts made revisions to the board and the
rules, then renamed the game SCRABBLE, which was trademarked in 1948.
It wasn't until the early 1950s that the game's popularity took off. As the story goes, the president of Macy's department store played the game on one of his vacations and was so impressed he ordered sets to sell at his store. In less than a year, stores around the country couldn't keep the game in stock.
To meet the surge in demand, the game was licensed
in 1952 to the well-established game manufacturing firm Selchow & Righter
Company for marketing and distribution in North America. Selchow & Righter
eventually purchased the trademark from Brunot in 1972. In 1986, Selchow &
Righter was purchased by Coleco, which was then acquired by Hasbro in 1989.
Hasbro produced the first CD-ROM version of the game in 1996.
There's no question that SCRABBLE has come a long way since Butts' handmade versions of the 1930s and 1940s. With the introduction of the first multiplayer online versions in December 2000, Scrabble is sure to maintain its place as one of the most popular games ever invented.