Milton Bradley was a game pioneer, credited by many with launching the game industry in North America. But years before he invented his first game, Bradley enjoyed a successful career in lithography.
Born in Vienna, Maine, in 1836, Bradley chose a career in printing and lithography in his late teens and set about learning the trade. In 1860, he set up Massachusetts' first color lithography shop in Springfield. One of his lithographs, a likeness of Abraham Lincoln, sold especially well, until Lincoln grew a beard and rendered Bradley's beardless image out-of-date.
At about the same time Bradley's lithography business was beginning to wane, Bradley visited a friend who challenged him to a game. Although it hasn't been recorded, this was probably an imported European game using a spinner to determine how many spaces a player moves. Bradley was inspired with a new idea—he would invent a game. Bradley designed a board game called The Checkered Game of Life. The object was to obtain a happy old age instead of financial ruin and a player's luck was decided by a numbered spinner. Players moved game pieces over sixty-four squares, which could be good, bad, or neutral according to their color.
By 1861, Bradley had sold more than 45,000 copies of his game. He formed Milton Bradley and Company in 1864 to print other games and game manuals. But games were not Bradley's only interest. In 1869, Bradley published America's first book on kindergartens, Paradise of Childhood, by Friedrich Froebel. Bradley's interest in childhood and children's education continued. In addition to printing a series of kindergarten manuals, newsletters, and children's books, Bradley wrote and published four books on teaching color to kids, including Colour in the Kindergarten (1893).
In 1880, Bradley expanded his business and began making jigsaw puzzles.
In 1911, Milton Bradley died, but the business he started continued to grow and prosper. The Milton Bradley Company, has retained its place as one of the world's leading manufacturers of games and toys. It is now a division of Hasbro, Inc.