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"Let's twist again like we did last summer!"

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator


Twister is a game of physical skill produced by Milton Bradley Company and Winning Moves. It is played on a large plastic mat that is spread on the floor or ground. The mat has six rows of large colored circles on it with a different color in each row: red, yellow, green, and blue. A spinner is attached to a square board and is used to determine where the player has to put their hand or foot. The spinner is divided into four labeled sections: left foot, right foot, left hand, and right hand. Each of those four sections are divided into the four colors (red, yellow, green, and blue). After spinning, the combination is called (for example: "right hand yellow") and players must move their matching hand or foot to a circle of the correct color. The game promotes itself as "the game that ties you up in knots". There is also Blindfolded Twister, a variant where there are four different tactile symbols on the mat, and the players are blindfolded and have to find a circle with the named symbol by feeling.

In a two-player game, no two people can have a hand or foot on the same circle; the rules are different for more players. Due to the scarcity of colored circles, players will often be required to put themselves in unlikely or precarious positions, eventually causing someone to fall. A person is eliminated when they fall or when their elbow or knee touches the mat.

In 1964, Reyn Guyer owned and managed a design company which made in-store displays for Fortune 500 companies. While working on designing a promotions for his clients, Guyer's son, Reyn Jr. (above), developed the idea that a game could utilize people as playing pieces on a life-sized board.

Best known for its adhesive office products, in the 1960s the 3M Company was attempting to diversify with a line of premium strategy games. Since Guyer had an existing relationship with the company for its point-of-purchase displays, he approached them with a square grid he called King’s Footsie. The game required teams of two players to try and line up their feet in a manner similar to Connect Four. (The players wore colored ankle bands.) 3M rejected the idea.

Charles Foley (pictured left center demonstrating the game) was a respected and successful toy designer for Lakeside Industries in Minneapolis and answered an ad for an experienced toy designer by Reynolds Guyer Sr. of Guyer Company.

Foley interviewed with Reyn Guyer Sr. and his son, Reyn, who were interested in product development within the toy business. After interviewing Foley, Guyer and his son discussed the possibility of starting a small division of the company in product development. His father agreed, for a short term, to support his son's idea for product development, and hired Foley, who negotiated a royalty agreement with Guyer Company for all games and toy items designed by Foley. Guyer Company agreed, and officially hired Foley.

Foley hired Neil Rabens (pictured left, on the right with Charles Foley), an accomplished product design artist with an art degree from the Minneapolis School of Art and Design.

The game ideas ranged from small kids' games to word games for adults. Foley had an idea for utilizing people as a part of the game idea, "a party game". Rabens had the idea to utilize a colored mat, allowing people to interact with each other, in a game idea he had developed while a student in design school. Foley saw the idea and developed the concept for having the colored dots line up in rows, and, with a spinner, created the idea for calling out players' hands and feet to the colored dots called out from the spinner. This would create a tangled-up situation between two people, and the one that falls first would lose.

With the support of Reyn Guyer Sr. and his son, Charles Foley and Neil Rabens submitted for patents (US Pat# 3,454,279) and trademark rights for what was originally called "Pretzel". Foley, with his extensive experience in the toy industry, called on his good friend, Mel Taft, Sr. V.P. for Milton Bradley in 1966, for a product idea presentation. Milton Bradley embraced the idea for the "Pretzel" game but renamed the game "Twister", to avoid consumer confusion with a toy dog on market at the time named Pretzel. It was a marketing decision Guyer disliked: For a midwesterner like Reyn Guyer, "twisters" were catastrophic tornadoes, not a game played during a fun evening at home.

Mel Taft, Milton Bradley's head of development, thought Twister had potential, but other executives felt playing it with members of the opposite sex could be deemed in poor taste. (The original box art even used cartoon characters instead of people to try and dilute its sexual subtext.) Initially the game still had trouble once it got to market. Major retailers balked, not sure where it fit in or if customers would understand it. Milton Bradley's competitors accused them of selling "sex in a box". Sears was one of many companies that refused to carry the game. Around the holidays in 1965, Guyer got a phone call from Taft telling him all promotion and manufacturing would be suspended. It was the end of Twister.

In the 1960s talk show host Art Linkletter had endorsed Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life. His picture even appearing on the box and the game’s currency. Before Milton Bradley suspended production on Twister, they had already paid a public relations firm to secure a segment on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (above). On May 3rd, 1966, Carson demonstrated the game on the Tonight Show. His guest that evening was Eva Gabor, wearing a low-cut gown, and splayed out on all fours on the polkadot vinyl mat, Johnny twirled the spinner and took his turn. When he climbed on top of Eva, the studio audience went into hysterics, screaming and laughing. Milton Bradley executives knew immediatly they had a huge hit on their hands. The day after the show aired, people were lining up 50 deep in front of the only store in New York that was rumored to have any remaining stock: the original Abercrombie & Fitch, which was best known at the time for selling sporting goods and outdoor apparel. By Christmas 1966, it was the game of the year. More than three million copies of Twisters were sold during its first year of release.

Twister was such a hit other companies tried to capitalize on Twister mania. In 1968, Parker Brothers released a game called Funny Bones (left), a card deck that required players to try and hold an oversized playing card between various body parts. Funny Bones came and went.

While Twister was able to overcome some initial reluctance from buyers, it still had to contend with a rash of press reports about teenagers who would hold Twister parties and play the game in the nude. Taft worried that the negative publicity might prove ruinous to the company, but it blew over.

Milton Bradley was able to successfully export Twister to a number of other territories. The lone exception? Germany. According to Taft, German culture at the time frowned upon women taking off their shoes in public, making the game a non-starter in the country.

In 1985, Hasbro acquired the Milton Bradley Company, becoming Twister's parent company. The Reyn Guyer Creative Group continues to work closely with Hasbro to develop and market new additions to the line of Twister products. Co-inventor Charles Foley died on July 1st, 2013 at the age of 82.

Twister, much like its counterpart the hula hoop, was one of the many toy fad phenomena that came about in the second half of the 20th century. Being one of the earliest toy fads, Twister was a game that was able to bring all age groups together, whether children or adults, and was accepted by all social classes. In the late 1990s, the National Federation for the Blind circulated instructions for adapting Twister so people with visual impairments could still play. Using different textures and Braille for the colored circles, players can feel their way through the game.

Since its release, many active participants have tried and succeeded in setting records for the most contestants in a game, and the largest combined amount of Twister game mats. The World's Largest Twister Mat was put together on June 18th, 2010 in Belchertown, MA on the Belchertown High School football field. Over 2500 students and staff at the Belchertown School District participated in the event. It consisted of 1008 Twister mats donated by Hasbro and measured 244.7 feet X 99.10 feet for 24,156 square feet (2,244.2 m2). The purpose of the record breaking Twister Mat was to kick off a fundraising drive for Jessica's Boundless Playground.

The previous record, as cited by the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest game of Twister included 4,699 square feet (436.6 m2) of mats that were combined together. Prior to that, the largest game was played in the Netherlands in April 2005 with 2,453 square feet (227.9 m2) of mats. The record for the largest number of contestants in a game of Twister was once bestowed in 1987 with 4,160 contestants tangling themselves at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. However, this 1987 Amherst claim was later disqualified upon evidence of officiating inconsistencies. As a result, the category of "Most Contestants" was temporarily banned from the Guinness Book.

Robert Bucci, a determined Engineering student at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), successfully entreated Guinness World Records to reinstate the category in 1992 by providing a comprehensively documented event plan prior to their subsequent world record setting event during the 1992 S AA/SF National Convention at Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Though Guyer is closely associated with Twister along with co-creators Foley and Rabens, his more lasting contribution might have come in 1969. Guyer was working on new toy development concepts when he and his partners began to throw around foam rocks that were part of another players-as-pieces game with a caveman concept. Sensing they had just come up with a kind of indoor ball, Guyer’s team sold it to Parker Brothers. It became NERF.


Entertainment Earth

Twister was originally called Pretzel. Pretzel was also the name of a toy dog on the market at the time.
To avoid consumer confusion, the name was changed to Twister.



Milton Bradley Company or simply Milton Bradley (MB) was an American board game manufacturer established by Milton Bradley in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1860. In 1920, it absorbed the game production of McLoughlin Brothers, formerly the largest game manufacturer in the United States. Since 1984, it has been a division of Hasbro.

In 1860 Milton Bradley (below right) set up the state's first color lithography shop in Springfield, Massachusetts. Its graphic design of Abraham Lincoln sold very well, until Lincoln grew his beard and rendered the likeness out-of-date.

Struggling to find a new way to use his lithography machine, Bradley visited his friend George Tapley. Tapley challenged him to a game, most likely an old English game. Bradley conceived the idea of making a purely American game. He created The Checkered Game of Life, which had players move along a track from Infancy to Happy Old Age, in which the point was to avoid Ruin and reach Happy Old Age. Squares were labeled with moral positions from honor and bravery to disgrace and ruin. Players used a spinner instead of dice because of the negative association with gambling.

By spring of 1861, over 45,000 copies of The Checkered Game of Life had been sold. Bradley became convinced board games were his company's future.

When the American Civil War broke out in early 1861, Bradley temporarily gave up making board games and tried to make new weaponry. However, upon seeing bored soldiers stationed in Springfield, Bradley began producing small games which the soldiers could play during their down time. These are regarded as the first travel games in the country. These games included chess, checkers, backgammon, dominoes, and "The Checkered Game of Life." They were sold for one dollar a piece to soldiers and charitable organizations, which bought them in bulk to distribute.

The Milton Bradley Company took a new direction in 1869 after Milton Bradley went to hear a lecture about the kindergarten movement by early education pioneer, Elizabeth Peabody (avove right). Peabody promoted the philosophy of the German scholar Friedrich Froebel. Froebel stated that through education children learn and develop through creative activities. Bradley would spend much of the rest of his life promoting the kindergarten movement both personally and through the Milton Bradley Company. His company began manufacturing educational items such as colored papers and paints and he gave many of these materials away free of charge, which hurt the company financially. Due to the Long Depression of the late 1870s, his investors told him either his kindergarten work must go or they would go. Bradley chose to keep his kindergarten work. His friend George Tapley bought the interest of the lost investors and took over as president of the Milton Bradley Company.

Milton Bradley was an early advocate of Friedrich Froebel's (left) idea of Kindergarten. Springfield's first kindergarten students were Milton Bradley's two daughters, and the first teachers in Springfield were Milton, his wife and his father. Milton Bradley's company's involvement with kindergartens began with the production of "gifts," the term used by Froebel for the geometric wooden play things that he felt were necessary to properly structure children's creative development. Bradley spent months devising the exact shades in which to produce these materials; his final choice of six pigments of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet would remain the standard colors for children's art supplies through the 20th century.

By the 1870s, the company was producing dozens of games and capitalizing on fads. Milton Bradley became the first manufacturer in America to make croquet sets. The sets included wickets, mallets, balls, stakes, and an authoritative set of rules to play by that Bradley himself had created from oral tradition and his own sense of fair play. In 1880, the company began making jigsaw puzzles.

The company's educational supplies turned out to be a large portion of their income at the turn of the century. They produced supplies any grade school teacher could use, such as toy money, multiplication sticks, and movable clock dials. Milton Bradley continued producing games, particularly parlor games played by adults. They produced "Visit to the Gypsies," "Word Gardening," "Happy Days in Old New England," and "Fortune Telling." They also created jigsaw puzzles of wrecked vehicles, which were popular among young boys.

When Milton Bradley died in 1911, the company was passed to Robert Ellis, who passed it to Bradley's son-in-law Robert Ingersoll, who eventually passed it to George Tapley's son, William. In 1920, Bradley bought out McLoughlin Brothers, which went out of business after John McLoughlin's death.

Milton Bradley began to decline in the 1920s and fell dramatically in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Fewer people were spending money on board games. The company kept losing money until 1940, when they sank too low and banks demanded payment on loans.

Desperate to avoid bankruptcy, the board of directors persuaded James J. Shea (top right), a Springfield businessman, to take over presidency of the company. Shea immediately moved to decrease the company's debt. He began a major renovation of the Milton Bradley plant by burning old inventory that had been accumulating since the turn of the century.

With the outbreak of World War II, Milton Bradley started producing a universal joint created by Shea used on the landing gear of fighter planes. They also reproduced a revised version of their game kits for soldiers, which earned the company $2 million. Milton Bradley did not stop creating board games, although they did cut their line from 410 titles to 150. New games were introduced during this time, such as the patriotic Game of the States, Chutes & Ladders and Candyland.

The advent of the television could have threatened the industry, but Shea used it to his advantage. Various companies acquired licenses to television shows for the purpose of producing all manner of promotional items including games. In 1959, Milton Bradley released Concentration, a memory game based on an NBC television show of the same name; the game was such a success that editions were issued annually into 1982, long after the show was cancelled in 1973 (similar practices were used for box game adaptations of the game shows Password and Jeopardy!).

Milton Bradley celebrated their centennial in 1960 with the re-release of The Checkered Game of Life, which was modernized. It was now simply called The Game of Life and the goal was no longer to reach Happy Old Age, but to become a millionaire. Twister made its debut in the 1960s as well. Thanks to Johnny Carson's suggestive comments as Eva Gabor played the game on his show, Twister became a phenomenon. In the 1960s, Milton Bradley games were licensed in Australia by John Sands Pty Ltd.

In 1967, James Shea Jr. (bottom right) took over as president of Milton Bradley (becoming CEO in 1968) succeeding his father. During his presidency, Milton Bradley bought Playskool Mfg. Co. the E.S. Lowe Company, makers of Yahtzee, and Body Language.

During the 1970s and 1980s, electronic games became popular. Milton Bradley released Simon in 1978, which was fairly late in the movement. By 1980, it was their best-selling item.

In 1979, Milton Bradley also developed the first hand-held cartridge-based console, the Microvision.

In 1983, seeing the potential in the new Vectrex vector-based video game console, the company purchased General Consumer Electronics (GCE). Both the Vectrex and the Microvision were designed by Jay Smith.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Milton Bradley marketed a series of games (such as HeroQuest and Battle Masters) in North America that were developed in the United Kingdom by Games Workshop (GW) that drew heavily from GW's Warhammer Fantasy universe, albeit without explicit reference to the Warhammer product line.

In 1984, Hasbro bought out Milton Bradley ending 124 years of family ownership. The 1990s saw the release of Gator Golf, Crack the Case, Mall Madness, and 1313 Dead End Drive.

In 1991, Hasbro acquired Milton Bradley's former arch-rival Parker Brothers. In 1998, Milton Bradley merged with Parker Brothers to form Hasbro Games. After the consolidation, Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers turned into brands of Hasbro before being both dropped in 2009 in favor of the parent company's name, since adjusted to Hasbro Gaming.

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