Long before any of us knew the thrill of jumping on the web to play free Scrabble, Scrabble online, there was a man named Alfred Butts who made all of this possible. If it weren’t for his interest in words and games, online scrabble would never have been created. Here is his amazing Scrabble story of doing battle with the giant game companies who weren’t interested in what he had to show them… at first.
Alfred Butts was working as an architect in 1938 when he created Lexiko, the forerunner to Scrabble. He studied the frequency of how often letters occurred in words using the dictionary and popular newspapers at the time for his research. From this work he created a pre-Scrabble table based on frequency analysis and changed the name of his game to Criss-Crossword played on a 15 x 15 game board. He tried creating a few of the boards himself and was not successful in interesting any big name toy companies with Scrabble at that time. Their loss, our gain with Free Scrabble!
Now we have unlimited opportunities to play free Scrabble with players across the globe at any time of day or night. Without Butts, there would be no Scrabble online. No online Scrabble at all. No free Scrabble to challenge our brains. Think about that and remember that persistence pays off!
Let’s fast forward 10 years to 1948 to James Brunot. Brunot was one of the very few owners of the pre-Scrabble original Criss-Crosswords game. Brunot liked the game, realized its’ marketing value and bought the rights to manufacture the game. In return he gave Butts a royalty on every game he sold. For the most part, Brunot left the game as Butts had designed it. But he did make 3 changes:
1. renamed Criss-Crossword to Scrabble
2. simplified the rules
3. repositioned the premium squares on the board
Starting in 1949, Brunot and his family began the task of creating games themselves in a vacant schoolhouse. They made 2,400 sets that year, but still did not make any money on their venture. In fact they lost money that first year. Their big break came in 1952 when Jack Straus, the president of Macy’s Department Store, happened to play Scrabble for the first time while on vacation. He feel in love with Scrabble.
When Straus got back from vacation, he was disappointed to realize that Macy’s didn’t carry the game. This was a turning point for Brunot when Macy’s president placed a large order for Scrabble games for his store. Suddenly, Brunot wasn’t unable to keep up with the demand that he and his family could produce in their small facility. He sold his manufacturing rights to one of the big name companies that had rejected Butt’s game back in 1938. Scrabble continued to be traded over the years and was sold to one game company after another and is currently owned by Hasbro who also owns Parcheesi.
In 1984, Scrabble was even featured as a daytime NBC game show. It ran for 6 years and there is rumor that it may air on ‘The Hub’ cable channel in 2011 as a joint venture with Hasbro.
Scrabble has had a long and interesting history from its’ inception with Alfred Butts, an architect in 1938 who named the game Lexicon; to James Brunot who purchased the rights in 1948, who with his family in a vacant building, began mass producing the game; to Jack Strauss, the president of Macy’s launching the little known game out of obscurity into the limelight; which forced Brunot to realize he could not meet the increased demand and ended up selling his rights to the same large game corporation who rejected Brunot’s game back in 1949. Free Scrabble history has come full circle!