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Parker Brothers

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“It’s only a game–isn’t it?”
Parker Brothers Toys Logo

Parker Brothers is a toy and game manufacturer and brand. Since 1883, the company published more than 1800 games; among their best known products are Monopoly, Cluedo (known as Clue in North America), Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Ouija, Aggravation and Probe. Parker Brothers is currently a subsidiary of Hasbro.

The Beginning

Parker Brothers was founded by George S. Parker. Parker’s philosophy deviated from the prevalent theme of board game design; he believed that games should be played for enjoyment and did not need to emphasize morals and values. He published his first game, called Banking, in 1883 at the age of 16. Banking is a game in which players borrowed money from the bank and tried to generate wealth by guessing how well they could do. The game included 160 cards which foretold their failures or successes. The game was so popular among family and friends that his brother, Charles Parker urged him to publish it. George approached two Boston publishers with the idea, but was unsuccessful. Not discouraged, he spent $40 to publish 500 sets of Banking.[2] He eventually sold all but 12 copies, making a profit of $100.

Parker founded his game company, initially called the George S. Parker Company, in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts in 1883. When George’s brother Charles joined the business in 1888, the company’s name was changed to its more familiar form. In 1898 a third brother, Edward H. Parker, joined the company. For many years, George designed most of the games himself, and wrote all the rules. Many games were based on important events of the day: Klondike was based on the Alaskan gold rush, and War in Cuba was based on the impending Spanish-American War.

The game industry was growing, and the company was becoming very profitable. In 1906, Parker Brothers published the game Rook, their most successful card game to this day and it quickly became the best-selling game in the country. During the Great Depression, a time when many companies went out of business, Parker Brothers released a new board game called Monopoly. Although the company had originally rejected the game in 1934, they decided to publish it the next year. It was an instant success, and the company had difficulty keeping up with demand. The company continued to grow throughout the next several decades, producing such lasting games as Clue, Risk, and Sorry!.

Even after George Parker’s death, the company remained family-owned until 1963, when General Mills purchased the company. After this, Parker Brothers produced the first Nerf ball, which became another major national hit. In the UK during the 1970s, Parker Bros. was the games division of Palitoy (also a General Mills company), and produced a variety of releases such as Escape From Colditz. The company began to produce electronic versions of their popular board games in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They also produced video games for various systems during the early 1980s, with home ports of many popular arcade games like Sega’s Frogger and Gottlieb’s Q*Bert. During the 1980s, General Mills merged the company with their subsidiary Kenner. This new company called Kenner Parker Toys Inc. was acquired by Tonka in 1987. In 1991, Tonka, including Parker Brothers was bought by Hasbro. *

An Unfortunate Account of Racism

In the early twentieth century, Parker Brothers released several racist games. “The Game of Ten Little Niggers,” introduced by Parker Brothers in 1895, was a variation of Old Maid that featured Black characters exclusively. The deck contained a pair of each of the ten “Little Niggers” plus one oddball to get “stuck” with. Parker Brothers, one of the few major manufacturers to market bowling sets, issued “Sambo Five Pins” in the early 1920s. The inside of the box tells a story which begins, “Sambo was a good ole Southern Darky…” The Game of Sambo,” a standup target game produced by Parker Brothers in the early 1900s, had targets which were meant to be comic caricatures of African- American faces. *

* en.wikipedia .org

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