American board game history spans at least 150 years, with W. & S.B. Ives of Salem, Mass., credited with being the first major manufacturer of games in this country, according to Bruce Whitehill, author of "Games: American Games and Their Makers, 1822-1992."
The firm published at least two dozen games in the mid-1800s, including the Mansion of Happiness. Parker Brothers, which bought out Ives in 1887, touted Mansion of Happiness as "The first board game ever published in America" when the company re-issued the game in 1894, Whitehill writes on his Web site at www.thebiggamehunter.com.
He chronicles the history of other major U.S. game manufacturers, including:
- John McLoughlin, who produced card games in New York as early as 1850. He formed McLoughlin Brothers in 1858, and the company manufactured beautifully illustrated games until it was bought out by Milton Bradley in 1920.
- Milton Bradley, who started his business in 1860 in Springfield, Mass. A lithographer, Bradley found early success with a pocket-sized game pack designed for soldiers during the Civil War. The Milton Bradley Co. produced educational games for children and families that kept pace with changes in educational theory. Classic Milton Bradley games include Battleship, Concentration, The Game of Life, Mousetrap and Operation. Hasbro bought the company in 1984.
- Selchow & Righter. Elisha Selchow, who founded E.G. Selchow & Co. in New York in 1867, obtained the rights to Parcheesi. The game's 1874 trademark is one of the oldest for an American game. Selchow partnered with John Righter in about 1880, and the duo sold other companies' games for decades. Selchow and Righter started making Scrabble games in the 1950s. The company, which acquired Trivial Pursuit in the early 1980s, was sold to Coleco in 1986. Hasbro took over when Coleco went bankrupt shortly thereafter.
- Parker Brothers, launched by George S. Parker in 1883. One of Parker's brothers joined the Massachusetts-based company five years later, and the firm targeted the family/adult market. The company's big break came when it bought Monopoly in 1935. Classic Parker Brothers games include Boggle, Masterpiece, Ouija, Risk and Sorry. General Mills bought Parker Brothers in 1968, and the company changed hands several more times before Hasbro bought it in 1991.