Thursday, February 3, 2011

the Evolution of the Bad Pipsisewah

A few years ago, I obtained an old, 1920s "Uncle Wiggily Game" game board at some antique store somewhere. There weren't any pieces, or the box, it was just a lonely, scribbled on board that I felt compelled to give a home. Mostly, I had fallen deeply in love with a mysterious octopus-like creature in the corner by the name of the Bad Pipsisewah, and was somewhat amused by this stand-offish bear. Reason enough, I believed, to shell out the $2.00.

Days ago, my darling mother picked up a later version of the same game from the late 1940s. Looking at photos of it, I noticed something: The Bad Pipsisewah was, like, a totally different dude.

At some point before 1949, the Bad Pipsisewah in the "Uncle Wiggily Game" turned from being a somewhat charming cephalopod to a club-wielding rhinoceros-giraffe hybrid with a jaunty cap. The first iteration of the Uncle Wiggily game was distributed by Milton Bradley in 1916, six years after Howard R. Garis created the Uncle Wiggily character. As far as I can tell from the illustrations in the newspaper comics and subsequent Uncle Wiggily books, the Bad Pipsisewah has ALWAYS been a rhinoceros-like miscreant and not EVER anything resembling an octopus or creature of the deep. So, what happened?

After a little investigation and research, I have absolutely no answers. What I do have, though, is a run down of (almost) every incarnation of the "Uncle Wiggily Game" Bad Pipsisewah from 1916 until 1988. Uncle Wiggily experts of the world – what's the deal?

Original 1916 Milton Bradley version - Original here

1916 color variant? - Original here (Thanks Mona for the original heads-up!)

1923 (?) Milton Bradley version - From my collection

1949 Milton Bradley version #1 - From my mother

1949 Milton Bradley version #2 - Original here

1954 Milton Bradley version - Original here

1961 Milton Bradley version - Original here

1967 Parker Brothers version - Original here

1988 Parker Brothers version - Original here

You may notice that two versions were released in 1949, with the main differences being the colors of the outfit. Hmm! Also, Parker Brothers put out two versions during the aesthetics-challenged decade that was the 1970s (in 1971 and 1979), neither of which I could find a decent picture of. The "Uncle Wiggily Game" is still in production to this day.


  1. Hello, Susanna! I stumbled across your post about the Bad Pipsisewah, and while I have no answers, I felt compelled to comment on this great game. I used to play this game with my grandmother when I was very young. I love it, and now my son loves it too.

    I'm trying to find people who have the ability to scan in the old boards that I'm missing (white octopus version being one of them) -- a friend of mine and I are trying to save this game by developing it for Windows. So I'm buying, scanning, and begging for files from people to help me on my quest. Can you help?


    1. Hi! Thanks for commenting. It's nice to know that the awful, esoteric things I talk about on this blog resonate with people from time to time.

      Unfortunately for both of us, because the two Uncle Wiggily boards I own are loose – no boxes or pieces or anything – I have no idea where they ran off to. I'm sure I tucked them away for safe keeping in some other old board game box, but I have so many that I couldn't begin to figure out which one. I will keep you in mind, though, should I run across either one anytime soon. They are great boards, and I'm totally in support of your noble quest. I'll keep you posted.

    2. Dear ChewToy Eleven,
      Are you in need of the 1961 Howard R. Garis copyrighted version produced by Milton Bradley? I have the complete set, in original box, all pieces and cards, and in excellent condition. The box lid also contains 2 stamps that I have not been able to find images of - 1 "Guaranteed by Good Housekeeping" and 2 - "Commended by Parents Magazine". Please email me at if you are interested in this game.

  2. I love the Pipsisewah of my youth as a squid like creature and was surprised to see the other incarnations. I just bought a board to have framed as I have such good memories.

  3. Do you know which story Howard R.Garis wrote where a skinny little boy packed mud and straw on his legs to look like the Bad "Pipsisewah" ?? Thanks Mike

  4. "Pipsissewa" is the Cree Indian name of an herb also called "umbellate wintergreen" and "Prince's pine", Chimaphila umbellata, that grows throughout North America. It's used as a flavor in root beer and for various traditional medicines. The Cree live mostly in Montana and Western Canada, and are the largest First Nation still remaining. It would be interesting to know how Garis, who was born in Binghamton NY and mostly lived in Newark NJ, got a hold of the word.

    My wife and I read our daughter the UW stories and played the game with her in the early 1990s.