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Milton Bradley
The Inventor of Smart Fun

Milton Bradley
Games and recreations did not idle the mind of Milton Bradley. His board games challenged players' cunning, comprehension, and strategy. One hundred fifty-eight years after the launch of the eponymous Milton Bradley Company, children and adults alike seek his inventions, and the inventions he inspired, as a way to connect with friends and family in an intellectual, stimulating manner.

After the initial success of his lithography shop (at first his bare-faced likenesses of Abraham Lincoln sold very well) Bradley, moving to Springfield, Massachusetts, a city of many firsts including basketball, was challenged with the idea of creating a quintessential American game.  The Checkerboard Game of Life, or Life, as it is known today, was created in 1860. He sold more than 45,000 copies of the game  within a year.

The American Civil War disrupted the manufacture of his board games. Bradley, intent that he do his part for the Union, briefly halted the production of his board games and attempted, however unsuccessfully, to produce weaponry for troops. Upon seeing disengaged soldiers he continued to sell games to keep soldiers sharp during their down time. A true humanitarian, Bradley sold chess, dominoes, American checkers, and backgammon games in bulk to charitable organizations which distributed them. During the next few decades the company became the first in America to manufacture croquet sets and later began to make jigsaw puzzles.
Bradley's most overlooked endeavors, however, were his roles in kindergarten education. German instruction theorist Friedrich Frobel believed children had unique abilities and very specific needs. He created the concept of kindergarten. Infatuated with the educational and social components of his own games, Bradley, to the financial detriment of his own company, began to create more educational products like paint and colored paper. The first kindergarten students in the "City of Firsts" were Bradley's two daughters. He, his wife, and his father became Springfield's first kindergarten teachers. 

His legacy as a toy maker is matched, if not exceeded, by his passion for child development.
Additionally, Bradley penned manuals for kindergarten teachers, including Color in the School Room and Elementary Color. His work proves he was as dedicated to child development as he was to social and familial recreation.

By Logan Williams

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