LeRoy Historical Society - page 4

Page 4
In 1960, Milton Bradley issued The
Game of Life to commemorate the
100th anniversary of their first board
game, which was called the Check-
ered Game of Life. The new version
had little resemblance to the old
moral game, played on a checker-
board. Remarkably, the Historical So-
ciety has in its collection the earliest
version of this game, manufactured
in the early 1860s. All that remains is
the board. The scoring boards, direc-
tions, and spinner – called a tee to-
tem – are missing. On the Internet I
discovered an article by BruceWhite-
hall that explained the significance
of this early American board game.
The object of the game was to start
at “Infancy” and proceed through
the vicissitudes of life and arrive
at “Happy Old Age”, collecting 50
points along the way. Spaces include
“Honor,” “School,” “Truth,” “College,”
“Matrimony,” and “Bravery.” If you
land on one of the positive squares,
you can proceed ahead. However, if
you land on “Intemperance,”“Crime,”
“Gambling,” you are set back. The
earliest game board had a square
marked “Speculation.” If while on
that square, you get a 3 or a 6, you
move to“Wealth.”However, if you get
any other number, you
are sent to “Ruin.” Mil-
ton Bradley removed
“Speculation,”
and
replaced it with “Gov-
ernment
Contract,”
which sent you imme-
diately to “Wealth.”
The introduction to
the game informed
the players that “The
journey of life is gov-
erned by a combina-
tion of chance and
judgment, the chance
representing the cir-
cumstances in life
over which we appar-
ently have no control,
but which are never-
theless governed to
a great extent by the
voluntary actions of our past lives.”
Milton Bradley explained that “past
lives”meant experiences.
Bradley organized the game with
a lot of thought. For example, as
you approach “Happy Old Age,” it is
easy to fall on “Intemperance” which
sends you back to “Poverty,” near the
beginning. “If you land on “Persever-
ance”you are sent to“Success.” If you
land on“School,”you are sent to“Col-
lege.”However, if you land on “Gam-
bling” you are sent to “Ruin.” If you
land on“Crime” you are sent to“Pris-
on.” But the worst square to land on
is “Suicide” which throws you out
of the game. It is curious that when
you land on “Cupid” and are sent to
“Matrimony” you collect no points.
Milton Bradley, whose name is
associated with family games, was
born in Maine in 1836. He lived in
Lowell, Massachusetts and Hartford,
The Game of Life
Connecticut, but when he was 19, he
moved to Springfield,Massachusetts.
Eventually he bought the first litho-
graph machine outside of Boston,
and went into business. He decided
to print a game, but at that time,
games were not considered a proper
way to spend idle time, unless there
was some moral redeeming factor.
Dice were considered evil and “tools
of the devil.” For that reason, The
Checkered Game of Life was played
with a tee totem – a spinning top,
similar to a dreidel.
It is an interesting part of the story,
that Milton Bradley printed a “pocket”
version of the Checkered Game of
Life,which was designed to be carried
in a soldier’s pocket or knapsack. The
game was considered appropriate
during the Civil War, and became the
most popular board game of the day.
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