The Kennard Novelty Company
The Kennard Novelty Company was the first company in the United States to manufacture Ouija talking boards. Five men, thirty thousand dollars, and the address of 220 South Charles Street would set into motion the perfect recipe for success, securing the Ouija board as the “Wonderful Talking Board.”
On October 20th 1890, Harry Welles Rusk, Charles W. Kennard, William H. A. Maupin, Col. Washington Bowie, and John F. Green would place their signatures on the company's incorporation papers which were certified on October 30th 1890. Kennard would offer 220 South Charles Street the site of his failing fertilizer business as its address. Bowie would come up with the majority of the initial capital for to defer manufacturing costs. In 1891 Elijah J. Bond would assign the now infamous Ouija patent (No. 446,054) to William H. A. Maupin and Charles W. Kennard. On February 28th 1891 Kennard and Maupin sold their rights and interest in the Bond Ouija patent to the Kennard Novelty Company. The Ouija trademark (No. 18,919) was applied for by the Kennard Novelty Company and granted on February 3rd, 1891. The company also applied for a trademark on the word Gardez No. 20,624 which was registered on January 19th 1892. The lawyer for both of these trademarks is none other than Harry Welles Rusk’s brother Jefferson Steuart Rusk. Though the company bears Charles Kennard's name he was not its president. According to trademarks and city directories Harry Welles Rusk was the President, Col. Washington Bowie the Treasurer and Supervisor, and Charles W. Kennard the company's General Manager.
By 1891 business was doing well enough that they opened up a second factory in Baltimore, Maryland at 909 East Pratt Street. In 1892 Col. Washington Bowie and Harry Welles Rusk had reorganized the Kennard Novelty Company, dismissing its other founders including Charles Kennard. They moved the company out of 220 South Charles Street and into 909 East Pratt Street, renamed the company the Ouija Novelty Company on March 8th, 1892, and put their close friend William Fuld at the helm. William Fuld was a former Kennard Novelty Company employee.
Though the company’s base of operations remained in Baltimore, Maryland at 220 South Charles Street, the young company did have a branch factory at 212 Illinois Street, Chicago, Illinois in 1891-1892 as evidenced in the Ouija box above. After the reorganization of the company, Charles Kennard would incorporate the former branch factory as the Northwestern Toy and Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois. There, Kennard would be named President and manufacture the Volo talking board as competition to his former Ouija board.
The Kennard Novelty Company produced the Ouija board for about two years. Both locations of the company have since been destroyed, 220 South Charles Street in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 and 909 East Pratt Street in a factory fire on February 1st 1893.
Below is a copy of the original incorporation papers which ominously predicted the change by recording "...the names of the directors who will manage the concerns of the said Corporation for the first year."
Kennard Novelty Company Incorporation Papers
2. We do further certify that the said corporation so formed is a corporation for the purpose of manufacturing and selling Toys and Novelties, that the term of existence of said corporation is limited to forty years; and that the said corporation is formed upon the articles, conditions, and provisions herein expressed, and subject in all particulars to the limitations relating to corporations which are contained in the general laws of this Sate.
3. We do further certify that the operations of the said Corporation are to be carried on in Baltimore City and that the principle office of the said Corporation will be located in Baltimore City.
4. We do further certify that aggregate of the stock of the Capital Stock of the said Corporation is Thirty Thousand dollars, and that the said Capital is divided into three thousand shares of the year value of ten dollars each.
5. We do further certify that the said corporation will be managed by five directors and that Harry Welles Rusk, Charles W. Kennard, William H. A Maupin, Washington Bowie, and John F. Green are the names of the directors who will manage the concerns of the said Corporation for the first year.
In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals this Twentieth day of October in the year eighteen hundred and ninety.
Harry Welles Rusk seal
State of Maryland Baltimore City to with:
I Charles E. Phelps one of the Judges of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City, do hereby certify that the foregoing certificate has been submitted to me for examination: and I do further certify that the said Certificate is in conformity with the provisions of the law authorizing the formation of said corporation.
Filed for Record Oct. 30th 1890, at 3:30 PM same day recorded and examined
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