National Scrabble Day Date in the current year: April 13, 2024

National Scrabble Day April 13 is a perfect day to host a game night for your friends and family and play Scrabble because it is National Scrabble Day. The holiday commemorates the birthday of Alfred Mosher Butts, an American architect who invented this beloved game.

Scrabble is a word game in which players place tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a game board divided into 225 squares (15x15). The goal is to score points by forming words in crossword fashion; each tile has a point value plus there are “premium” squares that multiply the number of points awarded to the tile that is placed on them.

Scrabble was invented by American architect and amateur artist Alfred Mosher Butts in the 1930s. It all started in 1931, when Butts wrote a paper entitled “Study of Games” where he described three types of games: board games, number games using playing cards or dice, and letter games. He noted that Anagrams was the best readily available letter game.

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Gold Bug” that had a line containing the distribution of English letters, Butts decided to create a game based on Anagrams where the most common letters in the English language would also be more common. The result was Lexiko, a game where players drew nine random tiles with letters from a set of 100 tiles and used them to construct words. The key to the game design was Butts’s analysis of letter frequency in the English language, which he used to determine how many copies of each letter should be included in the set.

Game manufacturers rejected Lexiko, but Butts managed to sell some copies on his own to recoup some (but not all) of his investments. In 1938, he began working on a new board game based on Lexico that he called Criss-Crosswords. The two games used the same set of tiles, but the new game also had a 15x15 gameboard and a new gameplay resembling crossword puzzles.

Once again, major manufacturers weren’t interested in Butts’s game, but eventually he sold the rights to James Brunot of Newtown, Connecticut in exchange for royalties. Bruno introduced minor changes to the gameplay and renamed the game Scrabble, which is a real word meaning “to scratch frantically”. He trademarked Scrabble in 1948 and produced the first sets in a converted former schoolhouse in Dodgingtown, Connecticut.

The game didn’t become successful overnight. According to legend, its big break came in 1952, when Macy’s president Jack Strauss played Scrabble on vacation and liked it. Thanks to steady orders from Macy’s, Brunot began to sell more and more sets. Unable to meet the growing demand, he outsourced manufacturing, marketing and distribution to Selchow and Righter, one of the game manufacturers that had previously rejected Scrabble. In just five years, the sales of Scrabble when from 2,400 copies to nearly four million.

Brunot sold the trademark for the game to Selchow and Righter in 1972. In 1986, the company was purchased by Coleco, which went bankrupt in three years later. Hasbro purchased Calico’s primary assets and has been manufacturing Scrabble in the United States and Canada ever since. Outside the U.S. and Canada, the game is produced by Mattel.

Scrabble has been adapted into more than 30 languages and is sold in over 120 countries. In 2004, it was enshrined in the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. Given the game’s popularity, it is not surprising that Scrabble enthusiasts across the nation celebrate National Scrabble Day on Butts’s birthday, April 13.

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National Scrabble Day, Alfred Mosher Butts, observances in the US, unofficial holidays, board games