Cress Reversible Educational LetterNumber Board

Cress Reversible Educational Letter/Number Board

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This board is a large, red, circular, reversible alphabet and number board with three slots in the center which was manufactured by Cress Educational Boards. One side depicts animals and sliding letters and the other shows children playing with carts and holding hands in a circle and numbers on blocks with mathematical operators.
Educational Boards or Tables first appeared in the US in 1840 as teaching devices for students to move blocks with letters on tracks to assemble words or even sentences. These educational manipulative toys, like blocks have been popular learning tool in both schools and homes and can still be found in second hand stores and online. In the 1880's, separate boards were created for spelling and for numbers to create simple math problems. From 1912 to 1917 childhood friends John H. Fox and Horatio G. Cress patented educational boards that combined letters on one side and numbers on the other side. Popularly called speller/number boards, letter/counting boards, and alphabet boards, they were made of fiberboard, metal, combinations of slate and wood, and later plywood, heavy cardboard, or plastic.
In 1903 John H. Fox (1859-1933) founded Fox Novelty Company in Berea, Ohio. His childhood friend Horatio Gates Cress (1859-1943) was a teacher, with experience in rural and district school. Together they worked on inventing and improving spelling boards with their names on the 2 early patents from 1912 and 1915. After a 1916 factory file at Fox, Cress moved to Troy, Ohio and opened his own toy company, H. G. Cress Company or Cressco. Cressco and to a lesser extent Foxy Toys expanded styles with additional patents and became competitors. Cress received 4 additional patents in 1923, 1924, 1925, and 1926. They created limited edition boards in Hebrew and Armenian and continued to expand their line with a variety of shapes and materials. These educational toys were endorsed as safe by Good Housekeeping and Child Life. After Cressco’s warehouse had a fire in 1940 their manufacturing rights were purchased by Richmond School Furniture Company who continued to produced their designs under the Richmond label until about 1961.
Currently not on view
Object Name
spelling and counting board
Object Type
educational toys
educational toys
date made
H.G. Cress Company
place made
United States: Ohio, Troy
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
wood (overall material)
cardboard (overall material)
overall: 1.5 cm x 35.5 cm; 19/32 in x 13 31/32 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Richard Lodish American School Collection
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Education
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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