Early Board Games

Posted July 18, 2014 by Amanda | No Comment

Do you love playing board games with your family? Most cultures and societies have been playing board games throughout history. From ancient Egypt and Rome to our homes today, board games have been a staple of entertainment for families all around the world.

Here’s a brief history of some early board games, some of which we still play today:

The Mansion of Happiness

The Mansion of Happiness / Library of Congress

The first board game to be manufactured in the U.S. was “The Mansion of Happiness.” Designed by Anne Abbot, the game was first issued in 1843. Players would hop along the spiral board with the goal of reaching the happy mansion at the end. The game was played with a teetotem, a small top inscribed with numbers instead of dice, which were associated with gambling. Like many early board games from this time, the game emphasized Christian principles and values.

The Landlord’s Game

The Landlord’s Game patent / Library of Congress (click to zoom)

Patented by Elizabeth Magie on January 5, 1904, The Landlord’s Game was a realty and taxation game designed to be a “practical demonstration of the present system of land grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences.” Although there were many similar games being played at the time, this game was the first of its kind to be patented. She would eventually sell the patent to Parker Brothers for $500. If the game sounds familiar to you, well it should. The Landlord’s Game served as the inspiration to the popular board game, Monopoly.


Scrabble / Spear’s Games Archive

In the early 1930s, architect Alfred Butts set out to design a board game. After studying a number of existing games, he found that all games fell into three categories: number games, move games, and word games. With this in mind, Butts sought to create a word game that would utilize both chance and skill by combining the elements of anagrams and crossword puzzles. He initially called the game “Lexiko,” but later changed the name to “Criss Cross Words.” He eventually sold the rights to his game to entrepreneur James Brunot, who made some adjustments and re-named the game “Scrabble.” When the chairman of Macy’s discovered the game, he instantly loved it and stocked the store’s shelves with it. The game soon exploded in popularity and has sold over 150 million sets worldwide.

What were your favorite board games to play growing up? Share your stories with us in the comments below!

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Social Media Coordinator at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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