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Scrabble begins during Great Depression

September 12, 2003

An unemployed architect named Alfred M. Butts came up with the concept for the game now known as Scrabble during the Great Depression.

Butts - who wanted to create a game that combined the vocabulary skills of crossword puzzles and anagrams with the element of chance - studied the front page of The New York Times to calculate how often each of the 26 letters of the English language was used. After figuring out frequency of use, Butts assigned different point values to each letter and decided how many of each letter would be included in the game - which he called "Lexico" before deciding on "Criss-Cross Words."

Butts drew the first game boards using his architectural drafting equipment and pasted them onto folding checkerboards. The tiles were hand-lettered and glued to 1/4-inch squares of balsa wood.

Like Monopoly creator Charles Darrow, Butts' board game idea was initially rejected by large manufacturers. Butts and partner James Brunot refined the rules and design of the game, renamed it "Scrabble," and, with the help of friends, began churning out games at an abandoned schoolhouse in Connecticut.

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The game's name was trademarked in 1948.

Business was slow until the early 1950s, when the president of Macy's department store saw the game and ordered a few sets for his store. Within one year, Scrabble sets were being sold in stores nationwide.

- Source: www.hasbro.com

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