Scrabble Copyrighted – Today in History: December 1
Scrabble tiles

Scrabble tiles

On December 1, 1948, James Brunot of Newtown copyrighted the famous spelling game Scrabble. Designed in 1931 by architect Alfred Mosher Butts under the name Lexico, the original game was played without a board and players earned points based on the length of the words formed. Butts capitalized on the popularity of crossword puzzles in 1938 by assigning different values to the letters and adding the familiar 15-by-15 grid board and the tile rack—calling the new design Criss-Crosswords. Butts applied for a patent but was rejected and he shelved the idea when he was unable to sell the game to manufacturers.

James Brunot, a Criss-Crosswords fan, believed that all the game needed was some slick marketing and a few refinements. He made an agreement with Butts to manufacture the game, paying him a royalty for each one sold. Brunot rearranged the premium squares, simplified the rules, and, most importantly, renamed the game Scrabble. He received the copyright on December 1 and the trademark on December 16, 1948.

The Brunots initially manufactured 18 games a day in the living room of their Newtown home, but they moved production to a local schoolhouse in 1952 when Macy’s, New York started stocking the game. The demand quickly increased to 6,000 sets a week and kept growing. Brunot sold the rights to Scrabble in 1968. Now a household name, Scrabble has sold over 150 million sets worldwide.

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