After I ran across an image of the Office Boy board game from Parker Brothers, I just had to know more. I couldn’t find much about the game itself beyond what is visible on the board, but it is often mentioned alongside board games like Mansion of Happiness: An Instructive Moral and Entertaining Amusement that were also educational or lesson-oriented.
Like many games, Office Boy was a very goal-oriented game. Players started at the tile that says, “Apply for Situation as Office Boy”, and progressed through various trials, tribulations, new jobs, and tasks while working toward the center of the board where the winner became “Head of the Firm.” Success in the board game was designed to mimic things that looked like success in business.
When I did see discussion about the game, the name Horatio Alger was often mentioned. While he didn’t have a direct connection to the game itself, his books and this game do seem to be targeted at the same audience. One of his earliest and most successful books, Ragged Dick or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-blacks, became the Ragged Dick series, which included: Fame and Fortune or, The Progress of Richard Hunter; Rough and Ready or, Life Among the New York Newsboys; and Ben The Luggage Boy or, Among the Wharves. He also wrote the Tattered Tom and Luck & Pluck series, only a few of which are listed below:
- Slow and Sure; The Story of Paul Hoffman the Young Street-Merchant
- Strive and Succeed; or, The Progress of Walter Conrad
- Risen from the Ranks; or, Harry Walton’s Success
- Seeking His Fortune, And Other Dialogues
- Making his way, or, Frank Courtney’s struggle upward
- The Telegraph Boy
- The Train Boy
- Frank Fowler, the Cash Boy
- Number 91; or, The Adventures of a New York Telegraph Boy
- The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success
- Tom Temple’s Career
- Tom Thatcher’s Fortune
- Luke Walton; or, The Chicago Newsboy
- Victor Vane, The Young Secretary
- The Young Salesman
- The Young Bank Messenger
- The Western Boy, or, The Road to Success
While this isn’t a full list of his works, are you sensing a theme? Boy makes good; Boy rises from misfortune; Boy works to make a living. Striving and success were a theme for Alger, but he wasn’t alone. He seems to have tapped into something in the American conscience. The “self-help” genre has long been popular in America–I even wrote a post in 2015 touching on this very topic–and book bestseller lists are testament to the popularity of the genre. Office Boy fits right in.
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