The concept of this game seems to go back to 12th century Japan, where it was
(and is) known as Kai Awase,
join the shells. It became associated with
marriage and was often part of a dowry. As the name suggests, it was palyed with
shells, shells that had been gold plated on the inside and a scene painted on
At some unspecified time in the 19th century, the game turned up in England
under the names of Pairs or Pelmanism.
actually a system of mind and memory training devised in the 1890s by William
Joseph Ennever, and taught by correspondence from the Pelman Institute in London.
It is possible that Ennever recommended this game, which became thus associated
with his method, or maybe it is just because Pelmanism was rather popular in the
UK in the first half of the 20th century and thus became a natural association
with everything related to memory.
In the 1940s the Basel kindergarten teacher Bertha von Schroeder published a
not very successful Zwillingsspiel based on the same principle. Inspired by
this game, Heinrich Hurter created a similar game for the children of his son William,
military attaché in London. He cut out identical pictures from catalogs and
magazines and glued them to square cardboard pieces. His grand children liked
the game, and it became soon known among their friends as
the memory game.
After returning to Switzerland years later William Hurter sought a publisher
for the game and found one in Otto Maier Verlag in Ravensburg, one of the biggest
German publishers of games and jigsaw puzzles. They presented it on the 1959
Nuremberg fair as memory (in all lower case and a fancy font). It became their
best selling item, selling 50 million in the next 50 years.
jealously guarded by Ravensburger as a trademark, is the common name for this
type of game in the German speaking world and wide parts of Europe. It is an
amusing example of an English word used in other languages for something it
isn't used in English (
handy for cell phone is another example).