|History of the Ouija Board
|Some people will tell you that Ouija boards are ancient. In fact, many believe that
the boards date back as far as 540 BC. This falsity was further spread by the
motion picture Witchboard. In actuality, TRUE Ouija boards are very young when
compared to the age shown by the 540 BC claim above. Although similar devices
my have existed, actual Ouija boards (meaning a flat surface with the alphabet and
numerals appearing on it, and a planchette for choosing letters/numbers) didn't
come along until much later on.
It is pretty much unknown who invented the Ouija board...but if I had to put my
money on it, I'd say it was Elijah Bond since his name graces the original patent
documents under the heading "inventor". Still, some say it as a man named
Charles Kennard. Regardless of who actually invented the board, Charles
Kennard and his Kennard Novelty Company are responsible for being the first to
patent a new item that would soon be all the rage. He was awarded the patent on
February 10, 1891. He called the new creation "Ouija" because he claims the
board told him that Ouija was Egyptian for "Good Luck." Well...Ouija isn't really
"Good Luck" in Egyptian but no one seemed to know or care. The name stuck
and so did this new fad.
He began producing the Ouija boards (also called Egyptian Luck boards) in 1890
(a year before patenting came through) and was selling them by 1891. On top of
that, they were only $1.50 and they were made of solid wood. I'm sure that was a
lot more money back then but today's boards are made of such cheap cardboard,
you almost have to call it paper (and they can cost up to $20 at really expensive
stores). The boards were huge and so were the planchettes. I'm very proud to say
that I own one of these rare boards. It's on display in my gallery!
After only another year, Charles Kennard was out of the Ouija business. He was
having some sort of financial troubles or something. Anyway, a man who worked
for Kennard Novelty Company ended up taking over. This guy is probably the
single most important person in Ouija history as far as getting them into
widespread use. This man was William Fuld. His name was then printed on every
genuine Ouija board made for over 100 years until Parker Brothers took it off in
the late 90s. William Fuld (along with his business partner Isaac) changed the
Kennard Novelty Company to the Ouija Novelty Company and continued selling
boards at much higher numbers. Shortly down the line, Isaac was fired so the
company name was changed once again to the William Fuld Company.
Since William Fuld then owned all rights to the Ouija board, he decided to reinvent
it's history. He claimed that he invented the board himself. He also said that
Ouija was a mixture of the French and German words for "yes." Oui and
Ja...Ouija. This is what most people today think the name means...once again
probably because of the film Witchboard.
All was fairly well until 1927. William Fuld was on the roof of his factory in
Baltimore to supervise the replacement of a flagpole. It was then that he fell to his
death. Witnesses say it was just an accident but since the truth is rarely
interesting, plenty of people were spreading rumors that it was suicide. I even read
somewhere that Fuld was possessed, possibly from one of his own boards...highly
His children then took over the business and continued selling the boards through
the great depression all the way up to 1966 when they retired. That is when the
fate of the Ouija was sealed. They sold the rights to the Ouija board to Parker
Brothers. One of the first boards Parker Brothers made was great. It was wooden
and is the best board Parker Brothers ever made. I have one of these on display in
my galleries as well. Then, sadly, the boards went from hardboard, to
tightly-pressed paper, to cardboard. Now all that is being manufactured is a glow
in the dark version of the Ouija. Maybe one day, Parker Brothers will wise up and
make a wooden edition. At the moment, we can only hope for this.
Interestingly enough, I read that more Ouija boards have been sold throughout
history than any other board game. This includes Parker Brothers' own Monopoly.
I hope you enjoyed this history...this is based on several different sources so it may
not be totally accurate. The Ouija has a very cloudy past at best. Well, enjoy the
rest of the site.
|For a more detailed (and professional) history, I suggest you visit the Museum of Talking Boards.
|THE ORIGINAL OUIJA - 1891 Charles Kennard
WILLIAM FULD/PARKER BROTHERS - Page 1 Page 2 Page 3
HASKELITE/HASKO - Page 1 J.M. SIMMONS - Page 1
OTHER MANUFACTURERS - Page 1 Page 2
HAND-MADE BOARDS - Page 1 Page 2
BOXES - Page 1 Page 2 Page 3
PLANCHETTES - Page 1
|Are you unsatisfied with the cardboard Ouija boards being made today?
Click here to visit my handcrafted Talking Board Yahoo Store!