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Fuld Family Feud
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|Feuding Fuld Brothers
The infamous Fuld Family Feud began in 1901 between William and Isaac Fuld and ended in 1997 with their grandchildren Kathy and Stuart Fuld. The feud divided a family in half and forced many to choose sides. Today no one knows why the two fought, but we do know it was taken very seriously by both sides. Whether or not they originally fought over the Ouija board or simply used it as a way to get back at each other is anybody's guess. The family never talked about it even amongst themselves. What we do know are passed down stories, interviews and court documents from their two trials. Whatever the feud was initially over the two would fight from 1901 until William's death in 1927. It would then sadly pass onto their children. Luckily for the family their grandchildren decided not to carry on the feud and buried the hatchet. Ironically it was the Ouija board that tore this family apart and it would be the Ouija board that would put it back together.
In November of 1897 William and Isaac Fuld made a verbal agreement and went into business together. On July 18th 1898 the Ouija Novelty Company signed an agreement with William and Isaac, trading as Isaac Fuld and Brother to manufacture and sell Ouija boards for the term of three years. In 1899 the two expanded their agreement to include payments to Isaac for extra labor. Isaac Fuld & Brother would pick up where the Ouija Novelty Company left off. They continued to pay Col. Washington Bowie and Harry Welles Rusk a royalty. William had managed the Ouija Novelty Company for Col. Washington Bowie and Harry Welles Rusk and had also been an employee at the original Kennard Novelty Company. Both brothers were inventors at heart and the pairing seemed a perfect match for business The two recorded their partnership on March 28th 1900. It stated:
“This is to certify that Wm. Fuld and Isaac Fuld (Both of Baltimore City) have this day entered into a partnership, in the manufacture and sale of games etc. known as Ouija, U.C. Billies Return Pool & U.C. Billies Calculator etc. That they have agreed to do business on equal profits except that in addition to the above, Wm. Fuld shall receive ten cents per Dozen royalty on the Return Pool & ten cents per dozen on the Calculator. And for this consideration he shall let remain in the business the sum of five hundred dollars, to be used in defraying expenses for the material, in the manufacture of the said games.”
For four years, the two would turn out Ouija boards together. However, less than a year after the agreement above the partnership and brotherhood were over. On July 18th 1901 William and the Ouija Novelty Company exercised their option not to continue their agreement allowing Isaac Fuld & Brother to manufacture and sell Ouija boards. The Ouija Novelty Company then signed a new agreement exclusively with William Fuld. Whether or not William and Isaac had a falling out that led to this decision, or that act itself caused their bad feelings it would result in a family feud that would last almost a century.
In December of 1901 William took his brother Isaac to court. Isaac maintained the books for the company, and William filed for and received a court order directing Isaac to produce and hand over the books. William's attorney was none other than Col. Washington Bowie's son Washington Bowie Jr. Bowie Jr. was named as the receiver for the said books, and the profit the company made. William also received an injunction against Isaac to cease and desist manufacturing all games in which William either owned patents and trademarks on or leased them. William and Bowie Jr. then complained to the judge that Isaac had not turned over the books in a reasonable amount of time, and Isaac was found in contempt of court. Isaac testified he had turned over the books and his brother and Bowie were lying. In return, William and Col. Washington Bowie opened up Isaac's personal mail that he received at the business. In 1902 their brother Raymond was subpoenaed to testify for William in court.
With the injunctions against Isaac in place, the court case was left open. In 1913 Washington Bowie Jr. asked the court to let him retain the one hundred sixty-two dollars and sixty-one cents he had recovered from outstanding invoices from Isaac Fuld and Brother as payment. He reports to the court that the books from the company were never recovered.
For a time things quieted down and both families kept to themselves. William went on to create the William Fuld Manufacturing Company and continued to lease the Ouija board from Col. Washington Bowie. Both sides recount of how when visiting the family if one brother was inside he would leave out the back door as the other would come in from the front. In 1904 Isaac began making samples of his new talking board called the Oriole board. These boards were made from the Ouija stencils he kept from the business. One stencil even shows where the word Ouija was cut out.
The Fulds gathered for the funerals of William and Isaac's sister and mother in 1905. The feud grew and in 1906 Isaac had his daughter Evelyn removed from the cemetery their family was buried at and re interred her at a cemetery across town.
On February 10th 1908 the original Bond patent on the Ouija board expired and Isaac began manufacturing and selling his Oriole boards. These boards were exact copies of the Ouija boards the brothers had sold together. By 1919 the feud erupted again in court this time Isaac bringing suit against William. Isaac's testimony from this trial opened up the original 1901 case.
Isaac complained that William was sending out letters to his customers threatening them with legal action if they sold Oriole boards as they infringed on his patents and trademarks. On the stand in 1920 William explained that it was his son William A. Fuld who sent out those correspondences as he was heavily involved with the business since he was sixteen.
In the end, William was found to have the sole right to manufacture Ouija boards. In the original 1901 case which was ended in 1919, Isaac was found guilty of violating the injunction order but because so much time elapsed and William could not prove how he was injured monetarily, Isaac was not punished. The case was dismissed, and the brothers had to split the cost between them. In the 1919 case that Isaac brought against William, Isaac failed to convince the judge that William had injured him and his business. He also cited that although the original patent had expired that William did not violate the law by putting that the Ouija board was patented as William had received another patent on improvements to the board. Though misleading it wasn't illegal. The judge felt that because Isaac had violated the 1901 injunction and did not seem forthcoming with his testimony, he did not enter the court with “clean hands.” The judge was convinced this new case was an outburst of their family feud and dismissed the case ordering Isaac to pay the costs of the proceedings.
Isaac stopped making talking boards and began other work. William continued making Ouija boards and other novelties until 1927. When William was killed in a fall from his factory's roof, Isaac stopped by to pay his respects. He was told his presence was not needed, he was not welcome, and was asked to leave. He did not attend the wake or funeral of his brother.
As with any feud these feelings were passed down from one generation to the next. When Isaac died in 1939 a story ran alongside his obituary that Isaac was responsible for the invention of the Ouija board. Wanting to set the facts straight William A. Fuld who had taken over his father's business, submitted a rebuttal which was printed. After that the families went on with their lives without speaking to each other.
In the fall of 1997 the Fuld feud was revisited. This time resolving itself in a much happier ending. Robert Murch while researching the history of William Fuld and the Ouija board, created a website called “OuijaWitch's Wonderful World of Talking Boards.” Through the site he received e-mails from both Kathy Fuld, William Fuld's granddaughter, and Stuart Fuld, Isaac Fuld's grandson. Both Kathy and Stuart had similar questions about their family and through those questions were able to bridge a century and bury the hatchet. With Robert's urging, Kathy called Stuart and the family feud was over. In the summer of 1998 Stuart and his wife Kay hosted the first Fuld family reunion in 97 years. Sitting around a bonfire Robert told what he knew of their family. Since then many holes have been filled in. Though the Fuld family often credits Robert with ending the feud he prefers to credit them and the Ouija board. Robert Murch is the Fuld family's personal historian and is considered the foremost expert on the history of William Fuld and the Ouija board.
Kathy and Stuart stay in regular contact, and Robert makes annual trips to Baltimore continuing his research. The three are good friends and work together to uncover and document the Fuld family's history.