“It,” “Lexiko,” and “Cross-Crosswords” don’t sound like the names of a favorite game. That’s because Alfred Mosher Butts, an out-of-work New York architect, initially couldn’t decide on a name, and this lack of a great name could be why he had so much trouble selling his game at first. It wasn’t until more than ten years after the creation of the game that it finally got the recognizable name of Scrabble.
During the Great Depression, Butts knew that Americans needed a bit of distraction during this tough time and set out to make the perfect game. He did research into the most beloved games which included board games, number games like dice or cards, and letter games like crossword puzzles and combined the three to make his version of the perfect game: Scrabble.
By looking at the number of times each letter appeared in the New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune, and the Saturday Evening post, Butts chose the frequency and numbering of the tiles. This is why the frequent letter “A,” which appears nine times in the tiles, is worth only one point and the more elusive tiles “Q” and “Z” tiles are worth 10 points but only appear once each.
However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Butts. For more than ten years, he changed the rules and the gameplay, trying to attract a corporate sponsor. Meanwhile, the US Patent Office rejected his application twice. He tried to sell the game sets himself, but ultimately, was unsuccessful. It seemed like the game Scrabble was finished before it even got started.
This is when James Brunot, another New Yorker, entered the scene. In 1948, he approached Butts about mass-producing the game and Butts eagerly agreed. Brunot kept the tiles and distribution but changed the rules slightly to simplify the game and came up with the iconic name, “Scrabble.”
Scrabble was first manufactured in an old schoolhouse in rural Connecticut, where Brunot and a few friends were able to make about 12 games an hour. However, all this changed when the chairman of Macy’s discovered the game while on vacation and decided to sell it in his stores. After that, the popularity of the game exploded and has since sold 150 million game sets in 121 countries.
Scrabble has been translated into 29 languages, including Arabic, Welsh, and Hungarian. Roughly half of all British and one-third of American homes own a Scrabble set, keeping this game as popular as ever.
Do you love Scrabble as much as we do? Check out our handmade Scrabble tile art that is the perfect gift for a loved one or yourself!