The Disturbing Origins:
The original version of Life was somewhat more pessimistic than the one we play today. Some of the board's original squares included "Disgrace," "Poverty," and "Ruin," as well as "Crime," "Prison," and -- no joke -- "Suicide."
Making a square for "Suicide" is one thing, but landing a job at the "Fat Office" is just plain cruel.
Even though today this would be like having a slot for the Joker's pencil trick in Operation, the original version of Life nevertheless sold like hotcakes.
So who was the psychopath behind this grim game? Milton Bradley himself, who was going through a bit of a rough time when he made it. Bradley was a professional lithographer at the time, and was driven to financial ruin, solely because Abraham Lincoln grew a beard. We're not making this up. Mr. Bradley was making a pretty sweet dime in 1860 selling lithographs of a then-beardless Abraham Lincoln until a little 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell sent Honest Abe a letter asking him to grow a beard, which he did. This unprecedented presidential fashion statement basically destroyed Bradley's business after all his unsold portraits of clean-shaven Abe were judged "so yesterday."
At the end of his rope and out of alcohol, Mr. Bradley sat down and sketched The Checkered Game of Life, we imagine with a loaded gun on the table.