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The Family-Friendly Milton Bradley Corporation Has A Bizarre History

Updated May 9, 2018 14.7k views11 items

The Milton Bradley corporation produced some of the most memorable family-friendly board games in history, like Operation, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders, before being purchased by Hasbro. Their games aren't as innocent and carefree as everyone believes, though; they have weird histories. In fact, there are strange stories behind many children’s games. 

The Bradley company was actually established during the Civil War and heavily influenced by Abraham Lincoln. After enduring that history-changing conflict, the Great Depression, and both World Wars, it's unsurprising that the company's colorful products have darker undertones. You can solve these games easily, but they're more complicated than most people think.

  • Photo: Milton Bradley / Amazon

    In 1946, San Diego schoolteacher Eleanor Abbott created Candy Land for children suffering from polio. The board was made very colorful and imaginative because it served as a diversion for bedridden, severely ill children. Abbott later sold the game to Milton Bradley. When it was released by the corporation in 1949, it sold for $1.

  • Photo: Gamie / Amazon

    Miniature Games Entertained Soldiers During The Civil War

    During the Civil War, soldiers were often left for long periods of time with few opportunities for amusement. Milton Bradley helped alleviate that problem by producing miniature versions of chess, checkers, and other games. The travel-size versions were sent to the Union soldiers. In fact, Bradley's creation, the Checkered Game of Life, became the country's first travel-size game.

  • Photo: Milton Bradley / Amazon

    Twister may seem like an innocent game; it's even been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame as of 2015. The interactive experience used to be considered quite risque, though. In 1966, the game was deemed too inappropriate for the Sears catalog. Critics even called Twister “sex in a box.” Due to the backlash, Milton Bradley halted production.

    Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor played Twister on The Tonight Show later that year, revitalizing the game's image. About three million editions sold in 1967.

  • Photo: Milton Bradley / Amazon

    John Spinello created the prototype for Operation as a school project in 1964. He received top marks on the assignment, then sold the rights to the Milton Bradley corporation for $500. After inflation, that amount is worth less than $4,000. Operation has since earned about $40 million. Tragically, in 2014, Spinello couldn't afford his own surgeries; he didn't have health care. The original Operation creator crowd-sourced to raise money, even selling his prototype.