Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Let's Play "The Landlord's Game"

by Connie Cortright

Never heard of "The Landlord's Game"? Neither have most of the entire population of our country since dating back to 1904 - the first year this game was patented. That's because we now know the game by a different name - "Monopoly". I'm sure you've heard of that one.

The 1906 version of "The Landlord's Game"
Elizabeth Magie in 1902 designed "The Landlord's Game" to illustrate the process of purchasing land and developing it. She invented it in the form of a board game so she could easily teach people the concepts. She was trying to show how unfair income inequality was by revealing the process of the rich purchasing land and making monopolies to the detriment of the poor who couldn't pay their exorbitant rent. (Sounds like she'd be a great politician today!) She wanted the board game to reflect her progressive political viewpoint.

She succeeded in getting a patent on the game, but could not find a company to publish it. So in 1906 she formed her own company to manufacture the board game. She attempted to sell the game to Parker Brothers in 1910, but was declined since it was a hard game to understand. I agree with Parker Brothers. I find this game to be very hard to get excited about.

From 1910 to 1932, the game expanded into different versions with different titles including "Monopoly", but was mostly used in college settings to teach economics and was more often handmade in the variations. Through the years, Magie tried several times to get Parker Brothers interested in the game, but was turned away because it was "too political". She did re-patent her game in 1924 and tried to control all the homemade variations under that patent. (That sounds like an impossible task)

Despite this confusing background, the game we know as "Monopoly" has been credited to Charles Darrow as the inventor. There's a story here somewhere... In 1933, the handmade version of the game was taught to Charles Darrow who duplicated it by hand several time before finding a printer to publish it. The game was becoming more popular even if the Parker Brothers didn't want to touch it. Finally, in 1935 Parker Brothers relented (after Christmas sales the year before had been off the charts) and decided to publish "Monopoly", but under a patent taken out by Charles Darrow. The game became an instant hit under the myth that it was created by Mr. Darrow.

After Parker Brothers discovered that there were previous patents and copyrights on variations of this game, they approached the other owners including Elizabeth Magie and purchased the patents and copyrights so they were the sole company with rights to the game. The early history of the game was forgotten after that. Somehow I bet they didn't receive a fair compensation given the popularity of "Monopoly" yet today.

After many years and many versions of "Monopoly", it's still a very sought-after game today. In fact, when my eldest son was growing up, he invented his own version of this game, calling it "Washington Cartel." Maybe he should see if that game would be picked up by Parker Brothers today seeing this term is often used by one of the presidential candidates.

Information taken from Wikipedia and The Secret History of Monopoly.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Yo-Yo Pa

by Connie Cortright

Yo-yos were a part of everyone's life when I was growing up. It was amazing to see all the different tricks that could be accomplished with those small toys. Yo-yos have been around for centuries in some cultures, then named "bandalore", so what do they have to do with this blog's era?

Flores demonstrating his Yo-yo
The 1920s-30s brought a big change in the basic yo-yo resulting in a yo-yo fad. Pedro Flores, an immigrant from the Philipines, redesigned the basic yo-yo by using a continuous string, twice as long as the final yo-yo's length. The string was folded in half, with the axle of the yo-yo in the fold, and twisted up. This looped slip-string left the yo-yo able to spin freely at it's longest point - making it "sleep", before recoiling into the hand. Prior to this time, the string of yo-yos were tied to the axle using a knot so the toy could only be extended and returned again.

In 1928, Flores started the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California. By the end of the next year, he had opened two more factories and was producing 300,000 units per day. He knew when he had a good thing going. He cashed in when he was at the top of his game and sold his business to Donald F. Duncan for more than $250,000, which was a fortune back then. However, Flores wanted yo-yos to continue to be a part of his life, so he became a key promoter in the new company.

Donald Duncan
Duncan formed the Genuine Duncan Yo-Yo Company in 1932 and trademarked the term "Yo-yo", forcing any other toy company to rename similar products with such names as "whirl-a-gigs" or "twirlers". Duncan's forte was marketing, which he used to expand the sales of Yo-yos not only to the US, but other countries as well. He sponsored Yo-yo contests, promoting the newly discovered tricks that the "Flores Yo-yo" could now do. The first World Yo-yo contest was held in London in 1932- in the midst of the Depression.

The Duncan Yo-yo became a fad because of the promotional campaigns that Duncan held over the years. Besides yo-yo contests, he would contract with newspapers and magazines to promote his product, selling this toy to the parents.

The Duncan Toy Company came to Wisconsin in 1946 by opening a factory in Luck, Wisconsin, located in the northwest corner of our state. This small town became known as the "Yo-Yo Capital of the World" because it produced 3,600 yo-yos per hour back then.

In a 1965 trademark case, Duncan Yo-Yo Company lost the trademark for the name yo-yo. It was argued that the term was in such common usage by then that one company could not monopolize the name. The Duncan family sold the company shortly after since they decided that the competition would ruin the company.

I haven't seen any yo-yos lately, but then I'm a grandma and probably wouldn't come into contact with people who still play with them today, but I'm sure they are much fancier and more complex than they were when I was a kid.

When's the last time you've seen someone play with a yo-yo?

Information taken from Wikipedia and Pedro Flores (inventor).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Baby of The Babe

by Connie Cortright

Courtesy of Wikicommons
One hundred years after George Herman Ruth Jr. was recognized as an amazing baseball player and became known to everyone as Babe Ruth, his name is still a household name to Americans of all ages. When he was traded to the New York Yankees in 1919, his future was well established as the best baseball player ever.

However, not too many people know that he had an illegitimate daughter. In fact, his daughter didn't even know it until 1980 when she was 59 years old.

Let's start with Babe's marriage to Helen Woodford in October, 1914. Just months before the wedding, he signed a contract to play for the Boston Red Sox. Only nineteen years old at the time, he was too young to know what life and marriage were all about. He was trying to adjust to all the fame and attention coming his way. The results were a rocky marriage from the start.

When the couple moved to New York in 1920, things got worse. Helen preferred living a quiet life, while Babe thrived in the notoriety that life in the city brought. He had a mistress named Juanita Jennings who gave birth to a baby girl on June 7, 1921. Babe persuaded his wife that they should adopt the newborn without telling her the baby was his child.

Dorothy Helen Ruth, raised as the adopted daughter of Babe and Helen, was told that they adopted her from an orphanage. Helen accepted Dorothy and took her back to Massachusetts and raised her on her own when Babe and Helen parted ways. Because of their Catholic faith, they didn't divorce, but lived in different states. When Helen was killed in a house fire in 1929, Dorothy's life changed dramatically.

After his first wife's death, Babe Ruth married the love of his life Claire Hodgson, who had a daughter of her own. The Ruths raised Dorothy and Julia during the heyday of Babe Ruth's winning career. Claire Ruth brought to the family stability and management that was lacking in Babe Ruth's life prior to that time.

The ironic thing about the situation was that Juanita Jennings was a friend of the family during Dorothy's growing-up years. Dorothy knew her as a friend of her father. It wasn't until 1980 when Juanita Jennings was dying that Dorothy found out the truth that Juanita was her biological mother and Babe Ruth was her biological father.

Dorothy's parentage was such a closely held secret that Julia had a hard time believing Juanita's story when the truth came out long after Babe's 1948 death. A rift between the two step-sisters developed in their later years. Not surprising with the secret coming into the open.

After she found out the truth, Dorothy wrote a book "My Dad, the Babe". This book, a memoir to her father, explained that she was not well treated by her step-mother Claire Ruth. It must have been interesting living in a household where Dorothy was the daughter and undoubtedly favorite of Babe, and Julia was the daughter and favorite of Claire. I imagine that this was a cause of friction during their younger days also. In the midst of all this, it was reported that Babe doted on his girls and enjoyed home life with them whenever he could be with them.

Sounds like an interesting household.

Information taken from Dorothy Ruth   and Babe Ruth: The Family Man (which didn't even mention the fact that Dorothy was the daughter of Babe Ruth).