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Bradley, Milton (08 November 1836–30 May 1911), manufacturer of games and educational materials, was born in Vienna, Maine, the son of Lewis Bradley, a craftsman, and Fannie Lyford. After finishing high school in 1854 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Bradley found work in the office of a mechanical draftsman and patent agent. There he earned enough money to enroll himself in the Lawrence Scientific School at Cambridge, where he studied drafting. Half a year short of completing the two-year course, Bradley moved to Hartford, Connecticut, with his parents. Unsuccessful in securing employment there, he left home in 1856 for Springfield, Massachusetts, where he immediately found work with the Wason Car-Manufacturing Company as a draftsman....

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Alfred Mosher Butts. Photograph, 1985. Associated Press

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Butts, Alfred Mosher (13 April 1899–04 April 1993), board game inventor and architect, was born Alfred Mosher Butts in Poughkeepsie, New York, the son of Allison Butts, a lawyer, and Arrie Elizabeth Mosher, a high school teacher. An earnest, diligent student, Butts was also the editor of his school yearbook. He graduated from Poughkeepsie High School in 1917; went on to the Pratt Institute, in New York City; and in 1924 took a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was also a member of the school's chess team. The next year he married Nina Ostrander, a biological technician who had been one of his teachers in high school; the couple had no children. Immediately after graduation, Butts got a job as a draftsman with the architecture firm of Arthur C. Holden and Associates (later Holden, McLaughlin and Associates), for whom he designed suburban homes in Westchester and nearby counties....

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Cowen, Joshua Lionel (25 August 1877–08 September 1965), inventor and manufacturer, was born in New York City, the son of Hymen Nathan Cowen, a hat maker and real-estate dealer, and Rebecca Kantrowitz, a shopkeeper. Cowen’s love for tinkering became apparent early in his life, when he would break apart toys to see how they worked. Unfortunately for his sisters, their dolls were not immune from these investigations. Curious why the dolls’ eyes opened and shut, young Joshua broke open their bisque heads to find the answer. Unwilling to surrender himself to the discipline of school, he often skipped classes. Valuing education too highly to let him drop out, his father enrolled him in the Peter Cooper Institute (later Cooper Union). There he was able to work with electricity and even invented what he claimed was the first doorbell. His unimpressed instructor told Cowen that nothing would ever replace the simple act of knocking on a door to announce one’s arrival....

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Duncan, Donald Franklin (08 June 1899–15 May 1971), businessman and promoter, was born in Huntington, West Virginia, the son of James Duncan and Virginia McCaffrey, who made their home in Rome, Ohio. Duncan had no formal education beyond grammar school. As a sales manager for the Brach Candy Company during World War I, he developed the idea of selling wrapped candy in small cedar chests. Then, in 1918, Duncan left the candy business for the automobile industry after buying the patent for a four-wheel hydraulic brake from the inventing engineer. Although he had been confident that he could promote the brake, Duncan proved unable to interest either the Ford Motor Company or General Motors Corporation in the device. Faced with corporate rejection of a brake that still needed improvement, Duncan promptly abandoned the endeavor. His patent was eventually assumed by the Wills Automobile Company. The four-wheel hydraulic brake, based largely on the competing inventions of Malcolm Loughead ( ...

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Gilbert, A. C. (15 February 1884–25 January 1961), toy manufacturer, marketer, and lobbyist, was born Alfred Carlton Gilbert, the son of Frank Gilbert, a banker, and Charlotte Ann Hovenden Gilbert, in Salem, Oregon. A sickly boy, according to some (although he himself later denied that story), he built himself up into a muscular physical specimen after his family relocated to the frontier town of Moscow, Idaho. The 5-foot 7-inch, 135-pound dynamo was a college football player, during his one year (1902–1903) at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, and a pole-vaulter and coach while in college and medical school at Yale from 1904–1909. Gilbert perfected a vaulting device—a bamboo pole that used a vaulting box instead of a spike to anchor the pole. He took home a gold medal in the sport from the 1908 London Olympics, where he tied for first place. (After his own gold medal triumph, Gilbert was long involved in the games, serving from 1924 to 1948 as a member of the American Olympic Committee and helping to manage the American Olympic Team in 1928, 1932, and 1936. His authorship of an article on pole-vaulting in the ...

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Ruth Handler. During the thirty-fifth birthday celebration of the Barbie doll at FAO Schwarz in New York City, 9 Mar. 1994. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Handler, Ruth (04 November 1916–27 April 2002), businesswoman, was born Ruth Mosko in Denver, Colorado, the daughter of Jacob Joseph Mosko (né Moskowicz), a blacksmith, and Ida Rubinstein. Ruth's parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland who had come to the United States in steerage in 1907. The youngest of ten children, she attended public school in Denver and worked in the drugstore her father was able to purchase a few years after arriving. At the age of nineteen, she moved to Hollywood, California, where she worked as a secretary at Paramount Studios. In 1935 Isadore Elliot Handler, her boyfriend from Denver, joined her in California, and the two returned to Denver soon afterward. She studied at the University of Denver in 1935 and 1936, and she and Elliot (as he was always known) were married in 1938. The couple had two children. The Handlers returned to California, where Elliot studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In 1941 Ruth Handler left the secretarial job at Paramount to which she had returned and worked with her husband, who had been designing and making their furniture and household accessories out of the new acrylic plastics Lucite and Plexiglas, to produce enough goods to sell to local stores. They formed a company called Elzac, from the first syllables of the names of Elliot and a partner named Zachary, and added costume jewelry and household items, such as bookends and candleholders, to their line. So successful was Ruth Handler's merchandising that the company reached $2 million in annual sales....

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Hassenfeld, Merrill (19 February 1918–21 March 1979), toy manufacturer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Henry Hassenfeld, a Polish Jewish immigrant toy maker, and Marion Frank Hassenfeld. In 1923 Henry Hassenfeld and his brothers, Harold, Hillel, and Herman, founded what became Hasbro Industries. The firm, then called Hassenfeld Brothers, initially made pencil boxes and other school supplies. Merrill graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1938. That same year he joined the Providence-based company. During World War II, he manufactured play doctor and nurse kits and air raid warden sets....

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Marx, Louis, Sr. (11 August 1896–05 February 1982), toy manufacturer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jacob Marx, a tailor and the proprietor of a modest drygoods establishment, and Clara Lou (maiden name unknown). Jacob Marx’s business never proved entirely successful, and the family enjoyed few extras. Working hard to improve himself, a trait he would exhibit throughout his life, Louis Marx graduated from high school in just three years at age fifteen. Before 1915 German toymakers supplied the largest portion of the American toy market. World War I, however, greatly reduced the availability of German playthings and encouraged the development of domestic toy manufacturing. Marx’s initial exposure to the toy business began on the eve of this expansion....

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Parker, George S. (12 December 1866–26 September 1952), inventor and businessman, was born George Swinnerton Parker in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of George Augustus Parker, a master mariner, businessman, and auctioneer, and Sara Hegeman Parker. Educated locally, Parker had intended to become a journalist, but at age fifteen he invented a game he called Banking for an informal club of fellow game-playing enthusiasts. This game, in which players borrowed their stakes from the Bank, rewarded the best—and luckiest—speculator, since 160 cards determined their “luck,” while bankruptcy lay in wait. At the suggestion of his older brother Charles, Parker spent $40 having 500 sets made, and by the end of 1883 he had cleared a profit of $140. The George S. Parker Company became Parker Brothers in 1882 when Charles joined. The eldest brother, Edward, joined in 1892 and, with George Parker as president, Parker Brothers purchased a Salem game-making enterprise and leased a factory. Parker Brothers, later America's premier games maker, was soon publishing twenty-nine games....

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Beth A. Snowberger

Ryan, Jack (1926–13 August 1991), inventor, was born in New York City, the son of well-to-do parents. Their names are unknown, but his father was a contractor. Ryan attended Yale University, graduating from Yale’s School of Engineering with a B.S. in 1948. He then relocated to Los Angeles, California, to work for the Raytheon Company. Raytheon’s “Lab 16” (later the Missile and Radar Division) began working on Defense Department contracts in 1950, creating missiles for use during the Korean War. Ryan assisted in the design of the Sparrow (air-to-air) and Hawk (surface-to-air) missiles....

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Schwarz, F. A. O. (18 October 1836–17 May 1911), toy merchant, was born Frederick August Otto Schwarz in Herford, Westphalia, a German province, to Frederick Schwarz, a jeweler, and Frederica Rothe Schwarz. Young Frederick attended school until the age of fourteen; he was then apprenticed to a local merchant to prepare himself for a career in business....