Drueke Red Octagonal Chessmen, No. 23R.
Offered here is a set of Vintage Drueke Red Octagonal Chessmen, No. 23R, red and ivory plastic, weighted and felted. in its original red cardboard display box with compartments for the individual chessmen and Chess Made Easy to Play instruction sheet. The chessmen are mounted atop green felt base pads. The chess set has a 2-3/8″ King with a 1-1/8″ base. They play best on a chessboard with 1-1/2″ squares. These chessmen are significantly heavier than the other weighted Octagonal chessmen, although the set number designation is the same as for other weighted octagonal sets. The Drueke Red Octagonal chessmen are in excellent condition, as are the box bottom half and the inserts. However, the lid is worn and the seams of the four sides have split.
A little history about the weighting designation for these and later chessmen. The terms Single, Double and Triple weighted were first coined by Drueke to indicate the number of lead slugs that were glued into the bases of their chessmen for ballast. It had nothing to do with the actual weight of the chessmen. Later, when the Indian manufacturers swarmed into the market en masse with their range of inelegant and knock-off wooden sets, they pirated the use of the weighting designation invented by Drueke. Unfortunately, they did not understand the genesis of the term, so they would advertise their sets as “triple weighted”, regardless of the size or weight of the chessmen. When ordering a set of wooden chessmen, ask for the actual weight in ounces. Don’t be led astray by meaningless claims.
The patented Octagonal “American Design” chessmen are produced by the Drueke Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company was founded by William F. Drueke and in 1916, a company bearing his name first appears. The Drueke Company is America’s oldest manufacturer of traditional board games. It first, he outsourced the supply of chess sets he sold, mostly to companies in Europe. These were wooden products. Is wasn’t until around 1954 that the Drueke Company purchased the first of three plastic injection-molding machines to manufacture plastic game parts for interlocking poker chips, chess pieces and cribbage pegs. Prior to the purchase, the manufacturing of plastic game parts had been contracted out.
On June , 1941, a patent application was filed for the “American Design” chessmen, Design Patent N0. 128794. It was a unique, octagon-shaped variation, of the classic Staunton design. It was the company’s first step in turning to plastic to produce chess sets rather than wood. It was a unique, octagon-shaped variation, of the classic Staunton design. It was the company’s first step in turning to plastic to produce chess sets rather than wood. Since the company did not obtain its own plastic injection equipment until 1954, it seems safe to assume the production of those first early sets had to have been contracted out. The American Design only came in one size, a 2-1/4″ King, but in several configurations.
The Players Choice Chessmen appear on the American chess scene around 1963 or there about. Pictures of the set in action can be found on covers and interior pages of both Chess Life and Chess Review. Interestingly, their Octagonal chessmen were cast in two piece molds, but the Players Choice chessmen had extruded bases and cast two-piece headpieces.
In July and August of 1972, American Bobby Fischer beat the Russian chess champion Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland. Drueke games received a priceless promotion when photos showed Bobby Fischer practicing with Drueke chessmen. This caused sales of the Drueke Simulated Wood chessmen to soar, and would be found at most tournaments and chess clubs. This set came in three sizes, the Library-size Octagonal Chessmen with a 2-1/4′ King – which later grew to 2-1/2″; the Tournament-size Players Choice with a 3¾”King, and the Imperial with a 5” King. The latter was also available in a Walnut finish. They also offered a magnetic ‘travel’ set.
In 1987, the Drueke Company was sold to the Low Tech Company. The Drueke name was retained. In 1990, the Low Tech Company sold Drueke to the Carrom Company, which moved manufacturing operations to its home in Ludington, Michigan. The Carrom Company continues to produce games under the Drueke name to this day. An excellent history of the Drueke Company, written by Duncan Pohl, can be found at: http://www.peterspioneers.com/druekepohlarticle.pdf