As a young boy in the ‘50s, I learned to play chess with hollow, plastic chessmen referring frequently to the instruction sheet that came with the Christmas gift that Santa Claus no doubt picked up at the F.W. Woolworth’s five and dime store when he stopped in at the luncheonette counter for a brief respite and a cup of coffee. I had no inkling at that time that this was the Game of Kings nor that its roots can be traced back over 1,500 years to northern India. The game found its way to Europe through the expanding Islamic Empire and the rules evolved to the game as we know it today in the 19th century.
Long-time vendor Alan has a keen eye for the unique and unusual. Alan recently acquired a complete set of Drueke Player’s Choice Chessmen, which appeared on the American market in the early ‘60s. William F. Drueke founded the company that bears his name in 1916 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. According to The House of Staunton, The Drueke Company is America’s oldest manufacturer of traditional board games.
You may recall 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 the pieces could be found at most tournaments and chess clubs.
Today, you can find an unblemished and complete set of Drueke chessmen at our own Riverwalk Vintage Market. We invite you to stop in and view this piece of Americana that gained national attention as it helped propel a young American to the World Chess Championship nearly a half-century ago in 1972.