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Pizza, Domino Shows, and Mouse Trap
I recently wrapped up another season of the Retroist Podcast with an episode about Pizza Hut. The name, “Pizza Hut,” was chosen out of economy, since that was how many characters they could fit on their very small original sign.
This got me wondering about how another large pizza chain got its name, Domino’s.
How did Domino’s Pizza get its name?
The original Domino’s location was located on 507 Cross Street in Ypsilanti, MI, and was owned by Dominick DiVarti. It wasn’t yet known as Domino’s, but instead went by DomiNick’s.
It was purchased by the Monaghan Brothers, Tom and James, in 1963. Jame would eventually leave the business, but Tom would continue to grow it.
After some local success, Tom decided he would franchise the business. At this point, he got pushback from DiVarti who did not want anyone franchising a business using his name. How did the name morph from DomiNick’s to Domino’s? It was not through a process of hard market research and testing.
Jim Kennedy, who delivered pizzas for the company, knew about the name issue. One day in 1965, while out making deliveries, the name Domino’s just popped into his head. When he got back to the restaurant he mentioned it to Monaghan who loved it and very soon after Domino’s Pizza was born.
The name Domino’s did cause some issues for the pizza chain. In 1975, Amstar, who owned Domino Sugar sued Domino’s Pizza for trademark infringement. Amstar would win the trial but would lose on appeal.
Getting back to 1965, that would also be the first year in which an actual domino tile would show up in Domino’s packaging.
What are Dominoes?
Dominoes generally refers to a bunch of tile-based games. Each tile or domino is rectangular in shape and has a line in the center. At each end of the tile is a group of dot or pips that represent a number.
According to historians, the first mention of a domino-style game was in China in the 13th century, but examples of pieces might go as far back as the 10th century. The game concept would slowly but surely begin to spread out and by the late 19th century was becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
While we know people played the game, for nearly a thousand years, what is surprising is how no one seemed to mention something that every person who has picked up a set of dominoes has done, knock them over.
A domino show happens when you stand up your dominoes next to one another and then push one over causing a chain reaction in which all the dominoes topple. This has most likely been a style of play related to dominoes for a long time, but it was popularized in the United States in the Seventies by Robert Speca.
In 1976, at just 18 years old, Speca toppled 11,111 dominoes. It established the first world’s record for toppling dominoes, which would lead to an appearance on the Tonight Show and other programs. After that domino-toppling mania took hold and it is still popular today.
The world record for domino toppling has grown dramatically since 1976. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for a group of domino topplers is 4,491,863 dominoes. For an individual, the number is 321,200.
A domino toppling event is exciting to behold, but world record-sized events are few and far between. What is a lot more common is seeing dominoes being used in Rube Goldberg Machines.
Rube Goldberg Machines
A Rube Goldberg machine was named after the cartoonist Rube Goldberg. These machines, which Goldberg inventively created and illustrated masterfully, are chain-reaction contraptions that perform a simple task in a very complicated way.
Most people watching these videos might not realize that they might have already built their very own Rube Goldberg Machine with the board game, Mouse Trap.
Mouse Trap the Board Game
The concept and original patent for Mouse Trap were by Marvin Glass and Associates. Glass and Associates created some of the most successful toys and games of the twentieth century including, Mr. Machine, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Lite Brite, Mouse Trap, Operation, and Simon.
The board game was designed by Hank Kramer of the Ideal Toy Company who kept the game as simple as possible to make it more playable by a younger audience. The game would get released in 1963 and is still available today. Although now it is sold by the toy giant Hasbro.
The object of the game is to assemble a Rube Goldberg contraption that captures a mouse token that represents one of the other players. Not a lot of skill is involved, but it’s a fun building game for kids that many people have on their shelves.
Commercials for the game ran on TV for decades. All of them do a great job of demonstrating the wacky gameplay. Here is the first commercial they released.