A guy starts off his working life as a lithographer. This is right after the Civil War. He suffers through his industry’s financial ups and downs and is a terrible businessman. He makes a deal. Shakes on it. Goes home to his wife. We see that they’re struggling in poverty. She points out the flaws of his brilliant deal which he now feels duty bound to fulfill even though it will lead him further into bankruptcy.
He plays a game of checkers with his friend that night to take his mind off his worries and has a grand time. The next day, while fulfilling his lithography contract, he sketches out this idea of a game with dice played on a board much like checkers. His friend fills in the details. Gives the story of the game a forward momentum. Our guy mocks up a prototype in his off hours. Raids his wife’s cookie jar of scant savings to buy a table at an annual toy fair. He’s about to sell is game to an enterprising fellow, but thinks better of it. Goes back to his wife who cooks up a much better deal which in turn makes them rich but, and importantly, sets him off on a new life where his talents are recognized.