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Ouija and Other Talking Boards
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Other Talking Boards
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Charles Kennard & Northwestern's Volo
Circa 1892

Volo Talking Board
Northwestern Toy & Mfg. Co.
Shortly after Charles Kennard left the Kennard Novelty Company in 1892, the former company founder introduced the Volo talking board as competition to the Ouija board. The Volo was manufactured by Kennard and his newly formed Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois doing business at 212 Illinois Street in Chicago, Illinois. This was the Kennard Novelty Company's former branch factory. Volo's roots are Latin meaning "to fly about (especially applied to the imagined movement of disembodied souls)." Coincidently, Volo is also the name of a small town just fifty miles north of Chicago. The boards construction is identical to other Ouija boards manufactured at the time and also included a veneer front and back. However, this is where the similarities end. The design is completely different, and most noticeably missing are the classic full and crescent moons, the stars, as well as the Good Bye at the bottom. Replacing those are small anchors and the words Clear, Rain, and Farewell. Because of the swift legal and marketing campaigns from the Ouija Novelty Company against the Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company production didn't last. After a suit was brought against the Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois by the Ouija Novelty Company production of the Volo ceased. They were manufactured for less than three months and therefore not many were produced. Manufactured circa 1892.


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W. S. Reed Espirito Talking Board
Circa 1891-1892

Espirito Talking Board
W. S. Reed Toy Company
The original Espirito board was manufactured by the W. S. Reed Toy Company of Leominster, Massachusetts. They trademarked the name Espirito (No. 20,566) and it was registered on January 5th 1892. The mark describes “a toy resembling a planchette,” but sure looks more like a toy resembling a Ouija board to us! In May of 1892, just four short months after their trademark was registered, the W. S. Reed Toy Company sent a letter out to the trade announcing the Espirito just couldn't compete with the Wonderful Ouija board. They ceased production of the Espirito and directed anyone looking for a talking board to the Ouija Novelty Company. More likely The Ouija Novelty Company filed a Bill of infringement against them since they held the patent. Since the name Espirito doesn’t appear directly on the board but rather the planchette, it was nearly impossible to know this was indeed an Espirito board. That is until Robert Murch discovered this Canadian article which contains a sketch of the actual Espirito board itself. After sharing this article with the Museum of Talking Boards, Gene pointed out the sketch was a dead ringer for this mystery board. To date only a few W. S. Reed Espirito boards have surfaced and without much fanfare since no one knew what they were. A rarity indeed and a great piece of the Ouija’s early history. Manufactured circa 1891-1892.

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*Ouija Novelty Company's Ouija/Espirito
Circa 1892-1893

Ouija/Espirito Talking Board
*Ouija Novelty Company
We believe this Espirito talking board was created by the Ouija Novelty Company in response to Charles Kennard's Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company ‘s Volo and the W. S. Reed Toy Company’s original Espirito. Here, the Espirito trademark shows up on the backside of what appears to be a Ouija Novelty Company Ouija board. Whoever made this board took the design of the Volo board above, printed their version on the back of their Ouija board, and called it Espirito. The real winners were customers who received two boards for the price of one! To date only one Ouija/Espirito board has surfaced and its origins remain a mystery. If it’s what we think it is, it was probably manufactured for less than a year. *Best guestimate - manufactured circa 1892-1893.


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American Toy Company's Igili Board
Circa 1897

Igili The Marvelous Talking Board
American Toy Company
You might think that after Kennard's loss with the Volo board that he would give up. Far from it! Charles Kennard teamed up with J. M. Raffel and Albert C. Strobel to set up the American Toy Company at 222 South Charles Street, right next door to the same location as the original Kennard Novelty Company. A completely new design this board was constructed with a familiar bird's eye maple veneer. Again, Kennard abandoned the moons and stars and instead included words like “Who, Which, Where, Because, and Rest.” The back is stamped “IGILI. Pat Applied for”, but to date no patent application has turned up. A December, 1897 advertisement in Munsey's magazine describes the Igili as “The Marvelous Talking Board. Scientific, Fascinating, Entertaining for Old and Young. Talks of Past, Present, and Future, and other topics, with wonderful accuracy.” The American Toy Company didn't last long, and neither did the Igili talking board. This board was Kennard's fourth attempt in the talking board business. Manufactured circa 1897-1899.


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Swastika Novelty Company's Nirvana
Circa 1907

Nirvana Talking Board
Swastika Novelty Company
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 to decorate the Nirvana talking board. These boards are extremely rare and because of the Bond connection extremely sought after. Manufactured circa 1907


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Unknown Talking Board
Circa 1885 - 1920

Unknown Talking Board
This mysterious unknown talking board made its rounds on ebay before landing here with us. Though it cleaned up well, it’s still as much of a mystery as the day we got it. Following the trend of early talking boards, it has the stenciled design and the letters are in the typical two band arc with a coat of yellowish varnish applied to the front. It also has the Yes, No, Good Bye, the full and half moon, as well as the stars in the lower left and right corners of the board. Unique to this board is the fancy flourish where one might expect a name to appear. Turn this board over and it gets very interesting. Besides the early Ouija boards there has been only one other talking board to surface that has these nailed or screwed slats attached to the back. Is this board inspired by the Ouija or did this board inspire the Ouija? Is this a homemade talking board or was is mass produced? To date it's the only one of its kind to show up. Until we find more information, this board asks more questions than it answers. As a talking board we think that's not such a bad thing! Manufactured 1895 - 1920.


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Wee Ouija Board
Circa 1920-1922

Wee Ouija Board
Baltimore Talking Board Company
Beginning in 1920 the Baltimore Talking Board Company started making three different sized Ouija boards. This being the smallest and called the “Wee Ouija board” because it only measures 5 X 8 inches. The board itself is made of paper over cardboard, and the planchette is a grayish purple triangular piece of cardboard with small felt pads stuck on the bottom. When the tax man came calling in 1920, the Baltimore Talking Board Company didn’t think Ouija boards should be taxed as games especially these Wee Ouija boards. In the end, they lost and to this day Ouija boards remain a taxable item. Using Ouija in its name and coming from Baltimore makes us suspicious of their link to William Fuld. However, because Washington Bowie Jr., assisted in the case we know some sort of licensing deal was made. Though all three boards made by the Baltimore Talking Board company are rare, we see this one most often. Manufactured circa 1920-1922.

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Middle Sized Ouija Board
8 X 12 inches

Middle Sized Ouija Board
Baltimore Talking Board Company
The Baltimore Talking Board Company did something unique with their middle sized Ouija board. They stuck the board to the bottom of a box rather than have a board you can remove. Perhaps this stopped the small wooden planchette from falling off the board? The directions are pasted to the top of the box cover along with a great photograph of people using the Ouija board. The board itself measures 8 X 12 inches. After many years of collecting we have only seen a few of these middle sized boards. Manufactured 1920-1922.

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