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The Ouija Board
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Detailed History of William Fuld and the Ouija Board
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William Fuld then founded the William Fuld Manufacturing Company and moved his Ouija business to his home at 1208 Federal Street. From 1905 to 1907, William moved his company into his home at 1306 North Central Avenue.
In the early 1900s Elijah Bond moved from Baltimore, Maryland to Charleston, West Virginia where he decided to reenter the talking board fray. On March 28th 1907 he filed for a trademark (No. 63,360) on the word Nirvana that was registered on June 18th 1907. The word Nirvana is placed in the middle of a swastika logo. On June 20th 1907 Bond assigned this trademark to The Swastika Novelty Company who manufactured and sold the Nirvana talking boards. Unfortunately for Bond and The Swastika Novelty Company lightening didn't strike twice. The Nirvana talking board couldn't overcome the popularity of the original Ouija board, and production eventually ceased. The arc layout of the letters is very similar to his first Ouija design though the moon, stars, and Goodbye are missing. Instead, the Nirvana board displays “Farewell” and unusual symbols such as an elephant crawling out of a snail shell, a warrior with a flail, the staff of Hermes with twin serpents, and a cloudy, windy face.
In 1908, sales were up and William Fuld relocated to 331 North Gay Street until 1911, when William launched his official showrooms on 1226-1228 North Central Avenue. William applied for yet another patent improving talking boards (No. 1,125,833) on January 24th 1914 that was granted on January 19th 1915. This address would remain the Ouija boards home until another boom in sales in 1918.
Meanwhile, Isaac Fuld was breaking the injunction against him in 1901. In 1904, Isaac began sending out samples of his version of the talking board, appropriately named the Oriole talking board. These boards were exact duplicates of the original Ouija boards produced by his former partnership with his brother. Isaac used the Ouija board stencils he kept from Isaac Fuld & Brother to make his new Oriole boards. He cut out the top where the word Ouija appeared and inserted his new logo. In 1919 Isaac began trading as the Southern Toy Company, and ran it out of his home at 2002 Homewood Avenue.
Having mastered public relations and the mystery of the Ouija William told reporters that the board warned him “to prepare for big business.” He took on the enormous task and had a three-story thirty-six thousand square foot factory built to house his company at 1508-14 Harford Avenue, Lamont Avenue, and Federal Street. Its doors opened in 1918, and William’s gamble paid off. Ouija sales began to climb. 1919 proved to be a memorable year for William. He applied for a design patent (No. 56,001) that was registered on August 10th 1920 which revolutionized his pointer or planchette. He was finally assigned all outstanding rights to the Ouija by Col. Washington Bowie and enjoyed his income from skyrocketing sales and national acclaim. Charles Kennard also resurfaced in 1919 with a trademark (No. 127,563) on a game he called WEIRD-A. Notably he mentions his business as the Kennard Novelty Company. To date nothing WEIRD-A has surfaced.
In April of 1919, William Fuld Inc. began mailing letters warning retailers buying Oriole talking boards that they violated William’s patents and trademarks, and that whoever bought and sold them was also breaking the law. The Oriole boards might have been cutting into Ouija sales, and that was not to be tolerated. Once Isaac learned of the letters, he brought a suit against William, contending that he and his company were trying to injure the reputation of The Southern Toy Company and Isaac with these mailings. William countered, believing Isaac had broken the injunction of 1901 with his own testimony saying he had mailed out samples of Oriole boards in 1904.
Isaac testified that his boards were different because his moveable tables did not use legs with felt but rather steel rollers (In the samples sent out in 1904, we know this is false. To date, no rolling tables have been found; only felt tipped legs have been discovered). The 1901 case was reopened to discover whether Isaac had indeed violated the injunction. Both courts believed Isaac had violated it, but that damage could not be ascertained. Isaac kept no formal books, so his actual sales could not be proven. The 1901 case was finally settled, and William did not collect a penalty from his brother because the court felt William had let too much time pass. The court ordered the case to be paid equally.
The 1919 case brought by Isaac was dismissed, because they could not prove that William’s mailings damaged Isaac. The judge ruled that Isaac had copied and distributed his Oriole boards in violation of the injunction. Isaac claimed he had a trademark on his Oriole board that was filed on December 29th 1911 and granted on May 14th 1912. A review of his trademark revealed that it did not apply to his talking boards, but rather his pool tables. He applied for another trademark on the word Oriole to cover his talking boards on April 30th 1919, which was granted on June 22nd 1920. The courts felt that this did not help his case. Isaac would have to pay for all costs incurred by the 1919 case, and would never make another talking board. The Southern Novelty Company continued its toy business until 1924.
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