Title: The Electrical Wonder Book
Publisher: Parker Brothers, (Inc) Salem, Mass. New York and London “Patents Pending, Sphinx Novelty Co. Newark NJ, Gray Lith Co. NY.
14 pages; 23 cm.
Condition – Fine book in very good original box, book is complete with both original movable arms. The original box looks good and has neat clear tape reinforcement on corners and one spot on the side. See photos.
Date: 1909** (undated, research shows that this book was copyrighted and advertised in 1909)
Description: Printed questions surround a teacher with a movable arm, on the opposite page is a student also with a movable arm. The moving arms are activated by opening and closing the book or pressing the key on either board. The student's arm then moves to point to the answer which matches the question to which the teacher's hand is pointing.
The Inventor: Research by vintagepopupbooks.com shows that the copyright holder was Harry B. Palmer.
Interesting 1909 Movable book of interest to collectors of both movable books and Parker Brothers. Exceedingly rare - This was Parker Brothers only try at book publishing in the early twentieth century. It would be 1983 and take a couple of “Care Bears” before they tried again.
Why is this publication – which represents Parker Brothers earliest foray into book publishing - so difficult to find? The Parker Brothers recent reference book entitled “The Game Makers – The Story of Parker Brothers” by Philip E. Orbanes gives us a clue on page 57 where he states, “The Electric Book of Wonders” was aptly named, although not terribly successful. George (Parker) believed that he might successfully publish books, as long as each had an added feature, a Parker Brothers “twist”. A former Bell Telephone engineer invented it. It worked flawlessly but failed to capture the public’s imagination.”
Early References to The Electrical Wonder Book:
** According to The American Stationer, Volume 66 -Howard Lockwood, 1909 - Stationery trade page 6:
The Electrical Wonder Book is one of the most up-to-date novelties in games. This is a new production of Parker Brothers, and is in book form. It is the invention of an electrical expert who was a former associate of Mr. Edison. Open the book, point the arm of the schoolmaster towards any of the hundred questions which you desire to answer and the scholar on the opposite page will as soon as the book is closed point directly at the answer. The Electrical Wonder Book is one of he large sellers of the year and appeals to stationers especially, on account of its compactness, and the fact that it is a seller that is constantly a subject for good sized recorders. The Electrical Wonder Book is a quick seller.
Parker Brothers produced only one edition as it did not sell well (despite their claims of it being a “quick seller”. However, perhaps believing the quick seller spiel to be true, arch Rival Milton Bradley came out with their own version of The Electrical Wonder Book one year later, taking out a patent for it Feb. 8 1910 according to the cover. ( The Parker Brothers edition states “Patents Pending, Sphinx Novelty Co. Newark NJ, Gray Lith Co. NY.”) The Milton Bradley edition of the Electrical Wonder Book had an illustrated cover instead of the rather plain cover that this earlier Parker Brothers one has. The Milton Bradley edition is held in just 3 libraries: Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, The State Library of Victoria in Australia, and Yale University Library. We could not find any holdings for this First Edition (Parker Brothers). On August 31, 1912 Harry B. Palmer filed a patent for a “game apparatus” in association with Milton Bradley. The description fits the mechanisms used in this book. Our best speculation is that after Parker Brothers dropped it due to sluggish sales, Palmer shopped it out Milton Bradley.