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National Scrabble Day

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National Scrabble Day
National Scrabble Day Clip Art
© Dixie Allan

Each year, on April 13, we celebrate the popular word game, Scrabble®. Folks have been enjoying the game Scrabble® ever since Alfred M. Butts invented it back in 1938.

Mr. Butts, an unemployed architect at the time, invented the game during the Great Depression. He wanted to combine crossword puzzles and anagrams with an element of chance.

Butts studied the front page of The New York Times to calculate how often each of the 26 letters of the English language was used. He discovered that vowels appear far more often than consonants, with E being the most frequently used vowel. After figuring out frequency of use, Butts assigned different point values to each letter and decided how many of each letter would be included in the game. The letter S posed a problem. While it's frequently used, Butts decided to include only four S's in the game, hoping to limit the use of plurals. He didn't want the game to be too easy, he got it just right. His original tile distribution has remained valid for almost three generations and for billions of games played.

The first games were hand drawn with his architectural drafting equipment, reproduced by blueprinting and pasted on folding checkerboards. The tiles were similarly hand-lettered, then glued to quarter-inch squares of balsa wood.

Originally called Lexiko then Criss-Cross Words, the game was eventually named SCRABBLE® and the rest as they say, is h-i-s-t-o-r-y.

Although it took a while to take off, over 100 million iconic games have been sold all over the world to date. Today the game is found in one of every three American homes, ranging from a Junior edition to a CD-ROM with many versions in between.

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