During the Great Depression, Scrabble was invented by an unemployed New York architect called Alfred Mosher Butts, who playfully toyed with the concept that during the grim economic times, Americans should have a little distraction. He managed to get himself a part-time job as a statistician and in his spare time came up with a brilliant idea to create a game. Butts came up with the idea of creating a game after reading a poem by Edgar Allen Poe. In this poem, The Gold Bug the character decodes messages by converting symbols to letters. After determining what the most enduring games were in history like the board games, number games like dice, and letter games like crossword puzzles, he implemented a method of combining all these within one game.

It took seven years for Butts to come up with the proper balance of numbered letters. The patent office rejected his application twice and Butts could not also come up with a relevant and attractive name for this new game. Gradually Butts named his new game ‘Lexico’. This game had no board. For four years Butts sold his game to his friends and tried to spark the interest of the Salem brothers in his game. He later added a board to his game Lexico, so that words could be created in a crossword-style. Then he named his game ‘ Criss Cross Words’. He hand made these games, hand lettering the tiles and gluing them to balsa wood. They sold for $2.

When Butts was approached about mass producing this game by a New Yorker named James Burnot, Butts readily agreed to it. The contributions of Brunot were important: he came up with the classic color scheme (pastel pink, baby-blue, indigo, and bright red), invented the 50-point bonus for using all seven tiles to make a phrase, and designed the name “Scrabble.” The first Scrabble factory was a rural Connecticut abandoned schoolhouse, where 12 games an hour were developed by Brunot and several gracious friends. Brunot and his wife Helen renamed the game ‘Scrabble ‘and assembled 2,251 copies in their living room during 1949. They lost $450.

Brunot, though, soldiered along, selling a couple hundred games a week, until one day in 1952.

A Macy’s store executive had accidentally discovered this game while at a summer resort and ordered these games to be filled up at his store. In order to keep up with the huge number of orders, this couple hired workers to put the game together, but by late 1952 they could only make 6,000 games a week — not enough to keep up with orders.

In 1971, the game’s rights were sold by Brunot and Butts to a firm named Selchow & Righter. A total of $265,000 in royalty was earned by Butts; Brunot got almost $1.5 million. Since Selchow failed in the 1980s, Coleco Industries Inc. took over and Hasbro Inc. followed him when Coleco went bankrupt.

When Hasbro revealed plans to delete almost 200 words found to be too derogatory for the official Scrabble dictionary, a controversy rocked the Scrabblesphere in 1994. The list of terms ranged from racial insults to playground expressions such as “turd,” “fart” and “fatso.” Two officially licensed dictionaries were later released by Hasbro, one for “recreational and school play” and the other for formal tournaments and “fatso.”

In 1954, with 4 million copies sold, Scrabble sales peaked. Today, 150 million Scrabble games in 29 languages have been distributed in 121 countries. From Arabic to Afrikaans, Scrabble has been translated into 22 languages today. Oddly, the game is sold by Hasbro’s competitor, Mattel Inc., outside the U.S. Hasbro and Mattel have filed litigation against two Calcutta twins, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, for releasing their own online edition of the popular word game “Scrabulous,” Scrabulous, founded in 2006 to kill time, gradually became Facebook’s most popular application, drawing more than 500,000 players per day. But the swift demeanor of the brothers spared them from more humiliation when they featured a new game called Wordscraper, which now features a malleable board that can be rearranged to form the original Scrabble board if one is so inclined.

Fun facts

  • Three out of every five American households have a Scrabble game – and more than half of British households.
  • There are an estimated 1 million Scrabble tiles lost in the world — somewhere.
  • The North American record for high-scoring tournament game was set in 2011 by former World Champion Joel Sherman when he scored 803 points at an event in Stamford, Conn.
  • Benjamin Woo discovered a way to earn 1782 points – the highest possible score — for OXYPHENBUTAZONE. He played it over the board’s top, reaching three squares of Triple Word Score while making seven downward crosswords.
  • n 2006, when playing at a Unitarian church in Lexington, Mass, a carpenter named Michael Cresta and a supermarket worker named Wayne Yorra set three records for sanctioned Scrabble in North America. They set records for one player for most points in a game (830), most points in a game (1,320), and most points in a single term (365, for QUIXOTRY).
  • John Chew, co-president of the North American SCRABBLE Players Association (NASPA), got death threats when he removed the two-letter word ‘da’ from the Scrabble Dictionary.
  • Richard Nixon regularly played Scrabble in the White House. Queen Elizabeth, John Travolta, Mel Gibson, and Vladimir Nabokov were other aficionados.
  • Every hour, people start at least 30,000 Scrabble games.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired six of Alfred Butts’ paintings.
  • The first annual National School SCRABBLE Championship took place in Boston on April 26, 2003.
  • In New England, the literacy rate was 60 percent between 1650-1670, 85 percent between 1758- 1762, and 90 percent between 1787-1795 – far higher than in other parts of the country.
  • In Thailand, there is a regular newspaper section dedicated exclusively to Scrabble!.
  • In the English version of the game Scrabble, there are 100 tiles. There are 120 tiles in both Italian and Portuguese Scrabble, which is the highest number of tiles in any Scrabble set.
  • With the word ‘muzjiks’, the highest score available on the first word is 128. It’s a word that Russian peasants mean.
  • The biggest Scrabble game was held at Wembley Stadium in 1998. Every single tile was 6 feet square.
  • A woman beat her husband over the head with a Scrabble board in 1996 in Hagerstown, U.S. She was indicted for assault.
  • In 1985, two guys, Lt Cdr Waghorn, and Lance Corporal Gill were trapped in a crevasse in Antarctica and played Scrabble continuously for five days.
  • To celebrate his 60th birthday and the 60th anniversary of Scrabble, a portrait of Prince Charles was made with Scrabble tiles in 2008.
  • For those unable to see, there is also a Scrabble version generated in Braille.
  • Scrabble’s box rules were updated four times, in 1953, 1976, 1989, and again in 1999.
  • New Indian ratings revised after Bangalore 1 Day on 8 March 2020 on 16/4/2020: