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The Milton Bradley Company

Somewhere along the line with your memory flashbacks to your childhood will conger up thoughts  of owning a board game and I bet it was created by The Milton Bradley Company. It's a iconic Brand name like Parker Brothers and Kenner all owned together under the Hasbro banner since 1984. 


  Milton Bradley was an American  board game designer, who would be soon making a great living making the type of games that people enjoyed playing. In 1860, Milton Bradley settled in Springfield, Massachusetts, and set up the state’s first color lithography shop. He cashed in on the popularity of  Abraham Lincoln selling his likeness until Lincoln grew his beard and rendered the product worthless.


Bradley was trying to come up with other ways  to make us of his lithography machine when he got into a conversation while playing checkers with a friend from England about the popularity of games in his home country with British heroes. He soon became  obsessed on the idea of making a purely American game.

Board Games with an America Flare

​ He created The Checkered Game of Life, which had players move along a track from Infancy to Happy Old Age,  in which the point was to avoid Ruin and reach Happy Old Age. Squares were labeled with moral positions from honor and bravery to disgrace and ruin Players used a spinner instead of dice because of the negative association with gambling.  By spring of 1861, over 45,000 copies of The Checkered Game of Life had been sold. Bradley became convinced board games were his company’s future.


Civil War  Travel Games

When the Civil War broke out in early 1861 Bradley noticed bored soldiers stationed in Springfield, needed something to keep them preoccupied so he began producing small games the soldiers could play during their down time.  You might consider this as one of the first travel game sets in the country.  


They included chess, checkers, backgammon, dominoes, and The Checkered Game of Life of course. They all sold for a buck a piece to soldiers and charitable organizations that bought them in bulk to distribute.

By the 1870s, the company was producing dozens of games and capitalizing on fads. Milton Bradley became the first manufacturer in America to make croquet sets. The sets included wickets, mallets, balls, stakes, and an authoritative set of rules to play by that Bradley himself had created from oral tradition and his own sense of fair play.  In 1880, the company began making jigsaw puzzles.

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In the late 1860s, Bradley became involved in the kindergarten movement. Deeply invested in the cause, his company began manufacturing educational items such as colored papers and paints. The company was hurt by Bradley’s generosity. He gave these materials away free of charge, which cost them.  Due to the recession of the late 1870s, his investors told him either his kindergarten work must go or they would go. Bradley chose to keep his kindergarten work. His friend George Tapley bought the interest of the lost investors and took over as president of the Milton Bradley Company.  Peabody promoted the philosophy of the German scholar Friedrich Froebel. Froebel stated that through education children learn and develops through creative activities. Bradley would spend much of the rest of his life promoting the kindergarten movement both personally and through the Milton Bradley Company.

Milton Bradley was an early advocate of Friedrich Froebel's idea of kindergarten. Springfield's first kindergarten students were Milton Bradley's two daughters, and the first teachers in Springfield were Milton, his wife and his father  Milton Bradley's company's involvement with kindergartens began with the production of "gifts," the term used by Froebel for the geometric wooden play things that he felt were necessary to properly structure children's creative development. Bradley spent months devising the exact shades in which to produce these materials; his final choice of six pigments of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet would remain the standard colors for children's art supplies through the 20th century.

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1800's Victorian Game 

Friedrich Froebel's Blocks

 Magnetic Fish Pond 1920's  

The company’s educational supplies turned out to be a large portion of their income at the turn of the century. They produced supplies any grade school teacher could use, such as toy money, multiplication sticks, and movable clock dials. Milton Bradley continued producing games, particularly parlor games played by adults. They produced Visit to the Gypsies, Word Gardening, Happy Days in Old New England, and “Fortune Telling. They also created jigsaw puzzles of wrecked vehicles, which were popular among young boys.


​When Milton Bradley died in 1911, the company was passed to Robert Ellis, who passed it to Bradley’s son-in-law Robert Ingersoll, who eventually passed it to George Tapley’s son, William. In 1920, Bradley bought out McLoughlin Brothers, which went out of business after John McLoughlin’s death.

Milton Bradley began to decline in the 1920s and fell dramatically in the 1930s during the Depression. There wasn’t money in the country to be spent on board games. The company kept losing money until 1940, when they sunk too low and banks demanded payment on loans.  Desperate to avoid bankruptcy, the board of directors persuaded James J. Shea, a Springfield businessman, to take over presidency of the company. Shea immediately moved to decrease the company’s debt. He began a major renovation of the Milton Bradley plant by burning old inventory that had been accumulating since the turn of the century.


With the outbreak of World War II, Milton Bradley started producing a universal joint created by Shea used on the landing gear of fighter planes. They also reproduced a revised version of their game kits for soldiers, which earned the company $2 million. Milton Bradley didn’t stop creating board games, although they did cut their line from 410 titles to 150.

Charlie Chan Detective Mystery Game  193

Shenanigans is a children's television game show that aired on ABC Saturday mornings from September 26, 1964 to March 20, 1965, and again from September 25 to December 18, 1965. The show was a revival of Video Village, produced by Merrill Heatter and Bob Quigley, and also featured a life-size game board. The series began as local programming in New York City and later aired nationally on ABC. Stubby Kaye, dubbed "the Mayor of Shenanigans", hosted the program, and Kenny Williams, known as "Kenny the Cop", was the announcer. Williams portrayed a similar role on Video Village.

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Much like Video Village, children stood on a giant game board. A button was pressed that stopped a set of flashing lights with the numbers one through four, and the children advanced on the game board that number of spaces. After landing on a space, the children answered a question or performed a stunt, earning "Shenaniganzas", scrips that could be traded for items from the Top Value Stamp Catalog. Possible prizes were also suspended from the ceiling in the studio.

Most of the spaces on the game board were references to popular board games by Milton Bradley, who served as the show's sponsor. In 1964, a board game was published by Milton Bradley as a companion to the show.


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