The man behind classic childhood board games like Candyland, Operation, and Battleship, was born today in 1836. Thanks to the failure of his private lithograph business with a print of Abraham Lincoln without his signature beard, Milton Bradley took a different career path, creating his first board game. The Checkered Game of Life was introduced in the winter of 1860 with great success. Today we know this game as simply LIFE!
The popular parlor game simulates a person’s life including college, marriage, job, children, and retirement with several versions following. It was based upon strong morals like many games back then.
Instead of rolling a dice, The Checkered Game of Life used a teetotum, which is a six-sided top. The game board looked similar to a checkerboard but had spaces with particular ‘events’ and points on them. The good spaces would win the player 100 points. Players would start on the space of “Infancy” and move through the game, hopefully landing on the opposite end, on the space of “Happy Old Age.”
After the great success of his board game, selling over 45,000 copies, Bradley began his focus on the science behind education and took great influence from the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel. His focus was to teach children degrees of memorization, geometry, and occupational understanding by using tools like blocks, balls, songs, and arts and crafts through free play from a child’s vantage point.
Fröbel had created the kindergarten system, which Bradley is credited to introducing to America by publishing magazines entitled Kindergarten News and Work and Play and developing tools like watercolors and crayons.
In 1911, Bradley passed away, leaving behind the popular board game, his educational influence, and a company that would later develop other classic games that generations have grown up with. But none will hold the everlasting impact of his original.
In 1960, the game celebrated its 100th anniversary and introduced the modern version of the game we know and love it today.
Check out this 1963 commercial:
His happy accident of a failed lithograph business turned into a healthy company still thriving today! So pull out your favorite MB board game and have a classic game night to celebrate Milton Bradley’s life and legacy of childhood games. I know we all have one or two stashed away in a closet or under a bed somewhere. Roll the dice!