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Ouija Novelty Company
220 South Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland
909 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland
20 North High Street, Baltimore, Maryland
Branch Factory - 206, 208, 210 Michigan Street, Chicago, Illinois
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|Ouija Novelty Company's Ouija Box
909 East Pratt Street & Branch Factory
Circa 1892 - 1893
The Ouija Novelty Company was the continuation of the Kennard Novelty Company and the result of Col. Washington Bowie and Harry Welles Rusk's reorganization of the business in late 1891. The Maryland legislature passed the resolution to change the company's name on March 8th 1892. While they waited for the legislature to pass the name change they made Ouija boards with labels and boxes that read both the Kennard and Ouija Novelty Companies at both factory addresses of 220 South Charles Street and 909 East Pratt Street. By 1892 Col. Washington Bowie and Harry Welles Rusk had reorganized the Kennard Novelty Company, dismissing its other founders including Charles Kennard. They moved the company out of 220 South Charles Street and into the 909 East Pratt Street factory. Next Rusk and Bowie put their close friend William Fuld at the helm of daily operations. William Fuld was an employee of the former Kennard Novelty Company. As their former Michigan branch factory became their competition, the Ouija Novelty Company opened a new branch factory just blocks away at 206, 208, 210 Michigan Street, Chicago, Illinois. In 1909 many of the street names and numbers were changed and today this branch factory's address would be 5, 7, 9 West Hubbard Street, Chicago, Illinois.
In 1892 one of the first tasks of the Ouija Novelty Company was to silence two competing toy companies both of who created their own versions of the talking board. The Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois was organized by former Kennard Novelty Company founder Charles W. Kennard. Left out of the Ouija Novelty Company’s reorganization he used the their former branch factory to start another business and make his Volo talking board. The Ouija Novelty Company filed a bill of infringement against them as they held the Elijah Bond patent (No. 446,054) effectively putting the Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois out of the talking board business for good.
Around the same time the W. S. Reed Toy Company of Leominster, Massachusetts began manufacturing their own Espirito talking board. Employing the same tactics mentioned earlier, it wasn’t long before the W. S. Reed Toy Company cried uncle opting out of talking board business all together and handing over the use of their Espirito trademark (No. 20,566) to the Ouija Novelty Company. For a very short time, they actually printed an Espirito talking board on the back of their Ouija boards. Interestingly enough it was almost an exact copy of Charles Kennard and the Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois’ Volo talking board.
On February 1st 1893 the 909 East Pratt Street factory "burned out" and the Ouija Novelty Company moved to 20 North High Street.
William Fuld would remain in charge of day to day operations while Col. Washington Bowie and Harry Welles Rusk would step further into the background. On April 12, 1898 the Ouija Novelty Company assigned its assets, including the Elijah J. Bond patent and Ouija trademark, to Rusk and Bowie in the following proportions: 1/6 to Rusk and 5/6 to Bowie. On July 18th 1898 the Ouija Novelty Company signed an agreement with William Fuld and his brother Isaac Fuld, trading as Isaac Fuld & Brother, to produce Ouija boards for three years. Bowie and Rusk continued to collect royalties.
Unfortunately, both locations of company have been destroyed by fires in 1893 and 1904. On December 2nd 1902 Rusk's relationship with the Ouija board came to an end when he sold his 1/6 remaining interest to Bowie for $100.00. Col. Washington Bowie would continue to receive a royalty on the Ouija board until April 24th 1919 when he assigned all remaining rights and interest in the U. S. Ouija trademark 18,919 to William Fuld. Though William Fuld had the exclusive right to manufacture Ouija boards beginning in 1901, the Ouija Novelty Company continued to file taxes through the 1918 fiscal year.