Don’t ever eat a bag of Scrabble tiles. For your insides, it could spell disaster.

April 13 is National Scrabble Day, and the birthday of the person who started it all.


That would be Alfred Mosher Butts, an architect who, during the Great Depression, developed a game that combined words, numbers and chance.

He got the idea of having different letters having more or fewer tiles thanks to a passage in an Edgar Allan Poe short story called “The Gold Bug,” which ranks which letters are used most often in English.

(Though Butts pored through newspapers and magazines for years to check for himself.)

He tested the game out in a church basement in Queens, which is recognized as the birthplace of Scrabble.

The street sign on the corner even has Scrabble tile values next to each letter.

Back then, though, the game was called Lexiko, and later Criss-Cross Words.

It also didn’t have a board.

That came after Butts began working with James Brunot, a social worker in Connecticut who was about the only person who thought Butts’ game might be a big seller.

Along with the board, Brunot added the classic color scheme, a 50 point bonus for using all seven tiles in a single word, and, of course, the name Scrabble.

It’s said that a department store executive spotted a Scrabble set while on vacation and ordered them for the store.

By the early 1950s, Scrabble sets were selling by the millions each year.

And while some people play online today, I think it’s still fair to say enthusiasm is so high we may not have a word for it.

It was today in 1818 that the U.S. Capitol first flew an American flag with 13 stripes and 20 stars, leaving behind the practice of adding a new stripe and star for each new state and just adding stars.

The 20 stars, by the way, were arranged to make a great star, hence the term great star flag.

They’re also called grand luminary flags.

Imagine spelling that on a Scrabble board.

A Short History of Scrabble (and Some Fun Scrabble Facts) (New England Historical Society)

Only the Beginning (New Yorker)

Grand Old Flag (Library of Congress)

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Scrabble photo by mydalliance via Flickr/Creative Commons