Milton Bradley: Lithographer

Milton Bradley, father of the North American board game, was a printmaker. Briefly mentioned in an article in Print (the design mag), this bit of trivia peaked my curiosity so I investigated further. Apparently, it’s true. Not only was he a printmaker, he “enjoyed a successful career in lithography.” Of course, Bradley was living in very different times; it probably wasn’t so uncommon to have a successful career in lithography.


Born in Vienna, Maine, in 1836, Bradley chose a career in printing and lithography in his late teens and set about learning the trade. In 1860, he set up Massachusetts’ first color lithography shop in Springfield. One of his lithographs, a likeness of Abraham Lincoln, sold especially well, until Lincoln grew a beard and rendered Bradley’s beardless image out-of-date.

According to Hasbro, the parent company of Milton Bradley…

One of the first lithographic works turned out by Milton Bradley was a portrait of Abraham Lincoln without his beard. Lincoln had just been nominated for the Presidency of the United States. The sale of this picture was extremely encouraging to the young printer until it was found that Lincoln had grown a beard. The sale of Bradley’s beardless lithograph dropped off drastically.

In seeking ways to keep his business afloat, Mr. Bradley began producing a game he had previously invented called, “The Checkered Game of Life.” His game was so successful, he sold as many as he could produce.

Moral of story: printmaking and the entrepreneurial spirit go hand in hand.

Alternate moral of story: one man’s beard is another man’s burden.

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Categories: Print-related

7 Responses to “Milton Bradley: Lithographer”

  1. rltillman says:

    About a year ago Jill Lepore published a great article in the New Yorker about Milton Bradley and board games. The full article isn’t available online, but I recall the shout-out to lithography, as well.

  2. A very interesting entry!

  3. LRodgers says:

    Does anyone know the value for one of these lithographs? I found one that says copyright 1895.

  4. penelopederm says:

    “… this bit of trivia peaked my curiosity …”

    I think your curiosity was piqued, not peaked.

  5. Kim Richardson says:

    Are those the Milton Bradley lithos on your page??? Been looking for them…..are those just pictures of Lincoln without a beard?

  6. Will Creech says:

    There was a great book published at one time called it’s in the game, about the Milton Bradley company. Very interesting the work done there. MB also was a proponent of Kindergarten a well known elementary school grade in Europe but to in the US. He also manufactured a lot of school supplies, and later the company manufactured components for aircraft in WWII.

  7. paul says:

    Hi, I have two litho paintings that my grandma got from Milton Bradley in Springfield ,Ma when he had displays on the common. I believe these two were given to my grandma by him as there is twine put through each corner as to hang on a tree in the park for advertisement or something like that. Where can I go to have these authenticated as I am going to auction these off. Thanks