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November 20th 1939
The Baltimore Sun
(Copyright © Reprinted with permission from the Baltimore Sun)
Story Of Ouija Board’s Start Lost With Death Of Inventor
Family Of Isaac Fuld Unable To Throw Much Light On How Idea Evolved
Children, grandchildren, and other relatives of Isaac Fuld, the man who popularized the Ouija board, mourned his passing yesterday, but no one seemed to be able to throw much light on just how he got started with his appealing idea.
The body of the man who started the strange fad that swept the country a quarter-century ago lay in state in the front parlor of the little house at 2002 Homewood avenue, surrounded by flowers. All day relatives and friends streamed in to pay their last respects.
But members of the family seemed to recall little about the beginnings of the Ouija board.
Loved To Tinker
“Dad loved to tinker with things,” one of his daughters said, after consulting with her mother. “Even mother doesn’t remember just how he hot on the Ouija board. But he and his brother, William, were great inventors. They were always tinkering with toys and gadgets.”
Actually, the principle of the Ouija board runs back for a century or more, according to students of spiritualism. The French, for instance, had a little three-legged device known as a planchette, one leg of which was a pencil that scribbled messages allegedly from the world of spirits.
Perhaps it was this that started the Fulds tinkering. The family only knew that Isaac and William used to amuse themselves with something of the kind as far back as 1892. Then they manufactured a lap board with printed letters and numerals and a little three cornered table that slid about on it.
Spelled Out Messages
Where the old planchette had written with a pencil, the Fuld’s Ouija board spelled out messages or conveniently pointed to “yes” or “no.” This was much easier for the spirits, and in the hands of a good medium the Ouija board could prattle away at a great rate.
“It was the vibration in the fingers that did it, you know,” members of the family agreed. “We don’t remember much about it now, but it was the vibrations running down into the finger tips.”
It was along in the World War period that the Ouija board caught on. As the craze swept the country, and even filtered into foreign lands, the Southern Toy Company, operated by the Fuld brothers, manufactured shiny boards by the million.
Money Rolled In
The sons and daughters weren’t sure just how much money Mr. Fuld made in its heyday, or how his brother William, now dead, fared. Oh yes, they said, the money rolled in — but they wouldn't like to say how much. Of course, when Mr. Fuld retired some ten years ago he was “comfortable.”
So far as they know, nobody shows much interest in Ouija boards nowadays, though there’s a toy factory on Central avenue that may still make a few. But there were patents owned by Mr. Fuld — and maybe someday they’d be valuable again.
And did Mr. Fuld get a lot of fan mail when the Ouija fad was at its height? Oh, yes. There were lots of letters, one of the daughters said vaguely. She wouldn't like to say how many.
Doesn’t Recall Complaints
“I don’t remember any complaints,” she said. “I don’t know anything about people writing in saying the Ouija hadn’t told the truth. I think the letters were mostly from people who wanted to know how to operate the board. I never heard of anyone not being satisfied.”
Mr. Fuld, who was 74, was born in Baltimore, the son of the late Jacob and Mary Abel Fuld. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Gruner Fuld; two sons, Stuart and Edwin; four daughters, Mrs Edith Noon, Mrs. Grace Beck, Mrs. Florence Hoffman and Mrs. Helen Velte, and two sisters, the Misses Lily and Viola Fuld.
The funeral will be from the home at 2 P. M. Tomorrow.