Parker Brothers, an American manufacturer of toys, was established in 1883 by George S. Parker. Popular products of the company include Monopoly, Risk, Cluedo, Sorry!, Ouija, Trivial Pursuit, Bop It, Aggravation, and Probe. The company has released over 1800 games since its inception. Unlike other board-games manufactured during the time, Parker did not feel the need to inculcate morals and values in children through his games. He wanted to offer games purely for the sake of fun and enjoyment.
When he was only sixteen years of age, George Parker designed his very first game and called it ‘Banking’. The premise of the game was to borrow money from the bank and guess at the profits. There were 160 cards, which the players would draw through the course of the game. The cards announced either successes or failures. Parker’s family and friends loved the game and his brother Charles advised him to publish it. Although George Parker presented the game to two publishers from Boston, he was not able to get it published. Finally he published 500 game sets for a cost of $40 and made a $100 profit.
George first established the George S. Parker Company in Salem, Massachusetts. In the year 1888, the company was renamed Parker Brothers, after Charles Parker joined his brother. Later in the year 1898, Edward H. Parker, another brother of the two, became a part of the company. As of today, Parker brothers is a subsidiary of Hasbro, a multi-national entertainment establishment.
The Parker Brothers centered their games on a number of current events – the game Klondike was inspired by the Alaskan gold rush, and the War in Cuba by the Spanish-American war. All of the games made during the initial days of the company were designed by George himself. The company published their first puzzle in 1887. Some of the popular lines of puzzles include the Jig-a-jig, Climax, Jig Wood, and the Paramount. The most bestselling puzzles of the Parker make were the Parker Pastimes. However the company stopped production of these puzzles in the 1950s.
As the game industry grew, the Parker brothers shot up to fame and success. They began to publish other varieties of games such as cards. Their card game Rook reached immense popularity and is played even today. They released the game of Monopoly during the Great Depression and in spite of the unfavorable climate, the game became a huge success. The company stayed in the family until the year 1968, after which it was acquired by General Mills. Under the wing of General Mills, the company released the Nerf ball game, which immediately captivated their buyers.
Parker Brothers became a part of the Palitoy company, under the General Mills umbrella. During this time, it produced games including Escape from Colditz. The company further expanded their portfolio to manufacture electronic games. Between the ‘70s and ‘80s a number of their popular games were converted into videogames and electronic games. Their videogames integrated with most of the popular video systems in those days and with arcade games like Gottlieb’s Q*Bert and Sega’s Frogger.
In 1977, the company decided to diversify into toys and action figures, releasing the Rom the SpaceKnight action figure in 1977. The toy failed in the markets, however the associated comic book (published by Marvel Comics) became a big hit. The company next invested 15 million USD in a book-publishing branch and came up with popular franchises like American Greetings, Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears. By 1984, in a single year since its inception the publishing house made a massive profit and sold 3.5 million units of books. During this time, the company also started a record label company. In 1984, its production which was based on the Cabbage Patch Kids won the Gold Certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
The Parker Bros. Company was joined with General Mills’ subsidiary company named Kenner in 1985. In a span of two years, in 1987, the resulting merger – Kenner Parker Toys Inc., was soon sold off to Tonka. In 1991, Hasbro purchased Tonka along with the toy division.