In 1890, the Ouija board was created for supernatural communication. It was also the focus of several lawsuits. This guide provides access to materials related to the "Ouija Board" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of U.S. Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
Ouija is a talking board first manufactured in the Unites States in 1890. A talking board is a board printed with letters and numbers that uses a sliding pointer to spell out messages in a mysterious way. The board that became Ouija was born in 1886 in Chestertown, Maryland and named in 1890 in Baltimore where it was first manufactured. Since Ouija’s inception newspapers reported on its use as a way to communicate with the dead, predict catastrophes, solve mysteries, even commit crimes. As Ouija's popularity grew in the wake of World World I, newspaper coverage spread about Pearl Curran, a St. Louis housewife who used Ouija to talk with the spirit of a 17th-century woman named Patience Worth. Mrs. Curran went on to publish Patience’s writings, many of which were met with critical acclaim. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
Elijah Bond and Charles Kenner begin manufacturing Ouija boards in Baltimore after reportedly holding a seance with Helen Peters.
William Fuld buys the rights to the game and records a patent.
Fuld's brother Isaac has his license revoked by Ouija Novelty; he tries to keep making the game but is blocked by a judge.
Pearl Curran claims to have made contact with a 17th century author whom she names Patience Worth; she begins publishing written work.
After a 19-year court battle, courts declare only William Fuld can manufacture boards; Issac is ordered to pay court costs.