The Love Game

Oliver O. Jensen was a writer, editor, self-taught historian, and railroad enthusiast born in 1914 who grew up in New London, Connecticut. He attended Philips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, matriculated to Yale University and graduated a Phi Beta Kappa student in 1936. At that point Jensen became a free-lance writer for several advertising agencies.

On June 25, 1938, Jensen submitted a patent to the U.S. Patent Office for a board game he developed, which he called The Love Game. As part of the advertising for the game he hired models and actors to enact the game “in the flesh.” He designated one of the models as Dorothy Davis, President of “Love, Inc.,” the mock company that designed the game. One of the actors was real life puppeteer Bil Baird and the photographs were taken by the now famous photographer Fritz Henle. The outdoor scenes were taken in Darien, Connecticut.

All of the captions notes were on the back of each photograph and played along with the spoof of Dorothy Davis, her twin sister Dibbie, and various players of the game.

Love goes to a party at the country home of the Love Girls. While enacting a game in the flesh, Dibbie Davis starts to recover her heart from a player who has just nabbed it. What Pres. Lottie Davis of Love, Inc., and another player are doing in the background, God knows. (Meadow is in Darien, Connecticut). [The man in the background is Oliver Jensen]
A chorus of enthusiastic yesses for Love. Picture shows girl guests in specially designed costumes at a party given by Miss Dorothy Davis, President of Love, Inc., at which guests enacted scenes from the new board game in the flesh. Here they are lined up at the start in a Darien, Connecticut, meadow for the photographer.
The villain, Bil Baird, famous puppeteer, pursues lovely Jamie Jamieson in the game of Love. She’s got his heart, which is all right with him, but he wants to gain possession of hers — which is not all right, as far as she’s concerned.
Sent Home to Mother: President Dottie Davis giving a realistic twist to one of the plays in The Love Game, rushing to the matronly arms at her home in Darien, Conn., where Love, Inc., gives a party and plays the Love Game in real life.
[Oliver Jensen with Dottie and Dibbie Davis]
Love, Inc., President Dottie Davis talks about The Love Game. [Oliver Jensen is standing on the right].
In Love’s New York Office: Miss Dorothy Davis (left), President of Love, Inc., maker of the Love Game, talks about business to her sister, Miss Dibbie Davis. Pres. Davis, who originated the humorous game on the theory that America needs Love, is known as the “Most Beautiful Corporation President in the World.”
Page from the Official Gazette of the U.S. Patent Office noting that Oliver Jensen patented The Love Game on June 25, 1938

 In 1940 Jensen landed a permanent writing position on the staff of Life Magazine in 1940. After the outbreak of World War II, he took a duration-of-the-war leave from Life in 1942 to join the United States Navy with the rank of ensign. From 1942-1943 he served on the U.S.S. Babbitt, a First World War destroyer deployed on convoy duties in North Atlantic and Icelandic waters in addition to Carribean and North African runs. After transfering to naval aviation, Oliver spent time in England among search-plane squadrons and served in the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown until the end of the war. Drawing on his experiences in the Navy, Oliver penned Carrier War in 1945 and returned to Life Magazine as a writer/editor until 1950.

Following his employment with Life, Jensen co-founded American Heritage Publishing Company along with James Parton and Joseph J. Thorndike, Jr. The non-advertising, hardcover, popular history magazine American Heritage was launched soon after in 1954. While serving as editor from 1959-1976, he also wrote numerous articles for American Heritage and its sister publication Horizon Magazine. From 1971-1974, he served as president of the Connecticut Valley Railroad Company and from 1976-1980 as chairman of the board of directors. In 1981, Jensen went on to become chief of the division of prints and photographs at the Library of Congress until 1983. He remained involved with American Heritage Magazine and a variety of clubs and organizations dealing closely with history, railroads and Connecticut, including Connecticut Historical Society, Acorn Club, Friends of the Alice Austen House, Society of American Historians, Eastern National Park and Monument Association, Century Association, Yale Club, and American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. After spending much of his life in Connecticut, Oliver died on June 30, 2005 and is buried near his home in Norwich.

Oliver Jensen donated his papers to the UConn Archives in 2003.

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