Little Bits of History

Playing Games

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 8, 2014
The Checkered Game of Life

The Checkered Game of Life

November 8, 1836: Milton Bradley is born in Vienna, Maine. He grew up in a working-class household in Lowell, Massachusetts. He worked as a draftsman before entering Lawrence Scientific School in Cambridge in 1856. He began a business as a mechanical draftsman and patent agent and then became interested in lithography. He set up the first color lithography shop in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1860. His business was failing after he printed Abraham Lincoln’s information during his run for the presidency. His picture included a beardless Lincoln and the candidate had since grown his beard. With this major loss of credibility, he turned to another way to use his drafting skills. He was inspired by an imported board game which he had received from a friend.

In the winter of 1860, Bradley released his new game, The Checkered Game of Life which eventually became known simply as the Game of Life. The game was an immediate success and he personally sold his first run of several hundred games in just a two day period. By 1861 he had sold over 45,000 copies of the game which followed similar structures to other American and British games of the time. Each square held a social position – good or bad, or sometimes a combination. One could gain influence and move ahead or get to poverty and slow progress. Even the best of positions such as “Fat Office” could hold dangers which included Prison, Ruin, and Suicide. The first player to get to 100 points won the game.

The basic difference between Bradley’s game and those of Puritan-based games of the time was his position on morality. Earlier games had been concerned with ways to promote moral virtue. The Checkered Game of Life was a game based in secular business terms and not on personal virtues. The country was moving away from moral teaching for the sake of morals and moving toward a time when wealth was becoming a measure of success. The game has gone through several different versions and the board looks quite different today. Automobiles now move the player around the board and spouses and children are included. Today, instead of points, one collects money in the hopes of winning the Game of Life.

The Milton Bradley Company was founded in Springfield in 1860 and is now headquartered in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. In 1920, they included production of McLoughlin Brothers which had been the largest game manufacturer in the US at the time. In 1987, they purchased Selchow and Righter. They were taken over by Hasbro, Inc. in 1984 and they are now wholly owned by them as is Parker Brothers, one of their former arch-rivals in the game industry. Milton Bradley’s game list includes Battleship, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Twister, Yahtzee, and of course, The Game of Life. Hasbro brands also include Playskool and Tonka. The US toy company has an annual revenue of over $4 billion. Games are big business.

If you’re going to play at all, you’re out to win. Baseball, board games, playing Jeopardy, I hate to lose. – Derek Jeter

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. – Albert Einstein

Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it. – Sai Baba

It’s the game of life. Do I win or do I lose? One day they’re gonna shut the game down. I gotta have as much fun and go around the board as many times as I can before it’s my turn to leave. – Tupac Shakur

Also on this day: Aerial Warfare – In 1950, the first jet-to-jet dogfight took place.
The Bod – In 1602, the main research library at the University of Oxford opened.
173rd Airborne – In 1965, Lawrence Joel attended to wounded soldiers on the ground.
Four – In 1971, Led Zeppelin released another album.


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