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May 23rd 1920
The World Magazine – New York World
by Edgar Goodman
Pedigree of The Witch Board
Instead of Consulting Ouija Herself on the Mystery of Her Origin, the Disputatious Brothers Fuld, Who Hold Patents and Manufacturing rights, Have Asked the Courts to Spell Out an Oracle Decision
It is a fact that the ouija board, or similar device, was known even to the ancient Egyptians. But is is equally a fact that nobody previously to Mr. Kennard had envisaged its golden as well as ghostly properties. The Kennard Novelty Company was formed with the capital of $30,000, and it pushed its wares so well that soon the little talk-table, first known as the Witch Board, delivered its oracles in homes throughout the land.
One evening Kennard and a young lady were questioning a Witch Board. She asked: “Who are you, and what is your name?” The board spelled out the word OUIJA. Kennard was afterward told that ouija was an Egyptian word meaning “good luck.” However, it developed that the young lady was wearing a locket on which the word Ouija was engraved. This hints at the general explanation of the ouija – a word in the sitters mind – the fingers unconsciously spell it out. Others contend that ouija is a combination of of the French “oui” and German “ja.”
The Kennard Novelty did a big business. There was a split in the firm. Kennard broke with the partners he had taken, and established a firm of his own. He put out the Volo board, a species of Ouija. Col. Bowie, one of the partners, entered suit – the original company held the patents. The inventor was forced out of the talking board business.
Some time later William Fuld, a shop foreman, took charge of the ouija business paying Col. Bowie a royalty. He associated his brother Isaac with him. They quarreled. Isaac Fuld established the Southern Novelty Company and placed the Oriole Talking Board on the market.
In 1915 William Fuld held the United States patent, two United States trademarks, three Canadian trademarks, a Canadian patent, and the copyright on the name ouija. The present vogue on the talk table has made these immensely valuable.
William Fuld's Ouija Novelty Company has just completed a new factory with 36,000 square feet of floor space at a cost of $110,000. It is estimated that the United States and Canada bought 375,000 ouija boards last year.
With this golden shower to be quarreled over, the rival brothers in the manufacture of the oracle machine have gone to court. And the big Ouija board is spelling out its usual strange messages in the case of Fuld vs. Fuld.