A family history of games
Young and from a humble family, Jacob Wolf Spier emigrated to the USA in 1852. He got married, became an American citizen and changed his name from "Spier" to "Spear".
After his return to Germany in 1861, he settled in Fürth, where he founded an import and export business in 1879. Soon, the first board games appeared among J.W. Spear's product range.
Under new management, games were infused with Nazi ideology and redesigned. For example, the traffic game "Achtung" became "Augen Auf!"; both versions can be compared in the detail view of this object.
Travelling games turned out to be ideal propaganda tools: Moving borders on paper and making those new borders playable helps construct and stabilise real borders in the minds of players.
The Nuremberg factory was left destroyed after the war. It took until the mid-1950s before the factory was restituted to the Spear family, rebuilt and producing games again.
In 1968, the J. W. Spear & Sons Ltd, now listed on the London Stock Exchange, held the worldwide production and marketing rights for Scrabble - with the exception of the USA, Canada and Australia.
In the 1970s, Supermarkets changed distribution structures and video games
emerged - the industry became subject to ever shorter-lived trends. In 1984, the Nuremberg factory was closed down.
In 1993, with no successor to Francis Spear in sight, the family business went up for sale. Mattel outbid its opponent Hasbro with a last-minute offer in 1994.
Deutsches Spielearchiv Nürnberg (German Games Archive)
Spielzeugmuseum Nürnberg (Nuremberg Toy Museum)
Helmut Schwarz und Marion Faber: Die Spielmacher, J. W. Spear & Söhne, Geschichte einer Spielefabrik. (English Translation: "Games we Play")
Nürnberg: W. Tümmels Verlag, 1997
Schriften des Spielzeugmuseums Nürnberg, Bd. II