Text is from the “Made in the Valley” Exhibit at the Wood Museum of Springfield History
The famous game company was first founded as a lithography business in 1860 by a young mechanical draftsman named Milton Bradley. Following the Republican National Convention of 1860, Bradley printed thousands of images of Abraham Lincoln. When sales of his lithograph depicting a beardless Lincoln plummeted following Lincoln’s adoption of facial hair, Bradley decided to try something new to save his business and soon introduced the board game, The Checkered Game of Life, an instant success. It was also Bradley who first manufactured “travel-size” games. Seeing the boredom of troops stationed in Springfield during the Civil War, Milton Bradley decided to produce portable versions of games, all included in a compact box for soldiers to carry with them. During inactive periods, soldiers could choose among a selection including checkers, backgammon, dominoes and, of course, Bradley’s own Checkered Game of Life.
After Bradley’s death in 1911, the Company continued to expand. By the 1920s, a period in which a number of new games were introduced, the Company occupied a new plant in downtown Springfield behind Chestnut Street. Over the years the Company experienced peak and down periods; it too was affected by the Depression, War years, and buyers’ changing tastes. It cannot be denied though that the Company survived and became the world’s largest manufacturer of games. Many years later, game enthusiasts can rest assured as many Milton Bradley games are still available. In 1984, the Milton Bradley Company was acquired by Hasbro now the world-wide leader in game manufacturing. To this day, America’s favorite games such as Shutes & Ladders, Candyland, and yes – The Game of Life – are all still manufactured locally in East Longmeadow MA.