19th Century Games

Boys Gymnastics


(19th century instructions precede modern instructions)

The best time for performing Gymnastics is early in the morning. Boys should proceed gradually from the more easy to the more difficult exercises; and it is most advisable to practise these sports under the eye of an experienced person. Where there is a number of boys, they should be divided into classes, according to their strength. It is advisable to carry no toys in the pockets when practicing; extra clothes should be put on when exercises are finished; and the usual precautions adopted to prevent taking cold.

The following observations, which are principally from Salzmann, may be perused with advantage. No person in health is injured by being overheated; but drinking when extremely hot, or being cooled too quickly, in whatever manner it happens may prove highly pernicious. It is proper, therefore to take off whatever clothing can be decently spared, before beginning to exercise, and put it on again immediately after. Lying down upon the cold ground, too, must not be allowed. On commencing any exercise, begin, not with its more violent degrees, but with the more gentle, and leave off in the same manner; sudden transitions are always dangerous. Never let bodily exertion, or your attempts to harden the frame, be carried to excess: let you object be to strengthen the feeble body, not to exhaust and render it languid. In all exercises, attention should be paid to such a position of all parts of the body, that none may be exposed to injury: for example the tongue must never be suffered to remain between the teeth. The left hand and arm are commonly weaker than the right; let them be frequently exercised, therefore, by lifting, carrying, and supporting the weight of the body by suspension, till they become as strong as the others.

Although walking, running, dancing, balancing, vaulting, climbing, jumping, wrestling, riding, swimming, and all other muscular exercises, may be included in the term Gymnastics, the common course adopted at the schools includes only walking, running, jumping, vaulting, balancing, and climbing. (Clarke, 59-60)

The best time of the day to perform gymnastics is early in the morning. When performing gymnastics, boys should start with the easiest exercises and move to the more difficult. They should carry nothing in their pockets, and remove any clothes that are not necessary to keep you decent (your hat, vest, and stock). Do not drink cold water too quickly after exercising and do not lie on the cold ground. Your main objective is to gradually strength your body, not obtain big muscles. You should work to strengthen both the left and right side of your body to make you equally strong.

Types of Exercises

(Only 19th century instructions are printed except when they are especially difficult to understand)

In walking, the arms should move freely by the side, the head be kept up, the stomach in, the shoulders back, the feet parallel with the ground, and the body resting neither in the toe nor the heel, but on the ball of the foot. On starting, the pupil should rise one foot, keep the knee and instep straight, the toe bent downward. When this foot reaches the ground, the same should be repeated with the other. This should be practised until the pupil walks firmly and gracefully. (Clarke, 60)

In running, the legs should not be raised too high; the arms should be nearly still, so that no unnecessary opposition be given to the air by useless motions. Running in a circle is excellent exercise, but the direction should be occasionally changed, so that both sides may be equally worked. (Clarke, 60)

The first rule in jumping is, to fall on the toes and never on the heels. Bend the knees, that the calves of the legs may touch the thighs. Swing the arms forward when taking a spring, break the fall with the hands, if necessary; hold the breath, keep the body forward, come to the ground with both feet together, and in taking the run, let your steps be short, and increase in quickness as you approach the leap. Begin with a moderate height or breadth, and increase both as you improve. (Clarke, 60)

Get a bit of wood, or half of a tobacco-pipe, hold it between the two fore-fingers of each hand, and, without letting it go, after a little practise, you may leap over it, forward and backward, without difficulty: when perfect in this, you may, as the writer of this has frequently done, place the tops of the two middle fingers together, and leap over them both ways, without either separating or touching them with the feet. It is impossible to perform this trick with high-heeled shoes; and in fact, the great difficulty consists in clearing the heels. (Clarke, 65)

Hold a small piece of wood between your forefinger and thumb of each hand. Bend over at the waist and jump over the stick forward and backward. When you can do this with out difficulty, place the tops of all the fingers together and hop over them as before. (Because of the negative cultural implications of pointing only the middle finger, do not hop over only your middle fingers.)

Place the palms of the hands together, behind you, with the fingers downward, and the thumbs nearest the back; then, still keeping as much as possible of the palms together, and, at least, the fingers of one hand touching those of the other, turn the hands, by keeping the tops of the fingers close to the back, until the ends are between the shoulders, with the palms together, the thumbs outward, and the tops of the fingers toward the head. This is a very difficult feat, and well deserves its title. (Clarke, 65)

Hold your arms on your breast, lie on your back and get up again, with out making use of either your elbows or your hands. (Clarke, 66)

 An exercise of some difficulty, is performed by putting the toes against a chalk line, kneeling down and rising up again, without any assistance of the hands, or moving the toes from the chalk line. (Clarke, 66)

 A feat, which affords excellent exercise… is performed by standing with your face toward a wall and throwing yourself forward, until you support yourself from falling, by the palm of one of the hands being placed with the fingers upwards, against the wall; when in this position, you must recover your former erect station by springing from your hand, without bringing your feet forward. According to the greater or less distance you stand from the wall, the more or less difficult the feat will be…. (I)t is better to begin the performance of the Palm-spring at a short distance only from the wall, at first; by practice, if you are active and resolute, you may, at last, rise with easy with your feet placed full two-thirds of your own height distant from the wall. (Clarke, 69)

Stand a short distance from the wall and, with hands out-stretched; fall forward until you catch yourself with your hands. Push off from the wall and return to a standing position. As you practice, keep moving farther and farther from the wall.

Girls Calisthenics

(Only 19th century instructions are printed)


This hard name is given to a gentler sort of gymnastics, suited to girls. The exercises have very generally introduced into the schools in England, and are getting into favour in this country. Many people think them dangerous, because they confound them with the ruder and more daring gymnastics of boys; but such exercises are selected as are free from danger; and it is believed that they tend to produce vigorous muscles, graceful motion, and symmetry of form. (Child, 110)

Types of Exercises

In this exercise, one arm, at first hanging by the side, is moved backward; it then passes up by the ear, and is brought down in front. The other hand, which is kept folded, thus describes a circle from the shoulder. This is first to be done with one arm, then with the other, and lastly, with both together - slowly, steadily, and swiftly. (Child. 110-1)

The hands are first raised above the head, and then decline forward, the body bending, and the performer points the hands as low towards the ground as possible, but without bending the legs. (Child, 111)

The hands are to be placed on the hips, the thumbs turned back, and the performers, raising themselves on their toes, are then to move forward by rapid succession of very small springs, keeping the whole frame as erect as possible. (Child, 111)

The hands should be placed as above (The Spectre March). A small hop is then made on the toes with one foot, the other stepping forward and repeating the hop; and the performer thus moves forward, by a step and a hop, with each foot alternately. (Child, 112)

Rounders or Feeders

Rounders terms
Feeder or pecker - pitcher
In-party - team that is up to bat
Out-party - team that is in the field

How to Play Rounders
In the west of England this is one of the most favorite sports with the bat and ball. In the metropolis, boys play a dame very similar to it, called Feeder. In rounders, the players divide into two equal parties, and chance decides who shall have first innings. Four stones or posts are placed from twelve to twenty yards asunder, as a, b, c, d, in the margin; another is put at e; one of the party which is out, who is called the pecker or feeder, places himself at e. He tosses the ball gently toward a, on the right of which one of the in-party places himself, and strikes the ball, if possible, with his bat. If he miss three times, or if the ball, when struck, fall behind a, or be caught by any of the players, who are all scattered about the field except one who stands behind a, he is out, and another takes his place. If none of these events take place, on striking the ball he drops the bat, and runs toward b, or, if he can, to c, d, or even to a again. If, however, the feeder, or any of the out-players who happen to have the ball, strike him with it in his progress from a to b, b to c, c to d, d to a, he is out. Supposing he can only get to b, one of his partners takes the bat, and strikes at the ball in turn; while the ball is passing from the feeder to a, if it be missed, or after it is struck, the first player gets to the next or a further goal, if possible, without being struck. If he can only get to c, or d, the second runs to b, only, or c, as the case may be, and a third player begins; as they get home, that is, to a, they play at the ball in rotation, until all get out; then, of course, the out-players take their places. (Clarke, 20)

Two teams of equal number play this game, which is a forerunner of baseball. Players decide who shall be the in-party and who shall be the out-party first. Four stones are placed in a diamond approximately fifteen yards apart as shown as a, b, c, d in the margin. Another stone is placed at e, which is in a straight line from a between b and c, where a member of the out-party, called the feeder, stands. One person on the out-party stands behind a. The rest of the members of the feeder's team stand in the field. The first member of the in-party takes the bat and stands to the right of a, or home. The feeder tosses the ball toward the boy with the bat, and the boy with the bat tries to hit the ball. If the boy with the bat misses the ball three times, if he hits it so it flies behind home, or if a boy from the out-party catches the ball before it falls to the ground, the boy with the bat is out. If the boy hits the ball and none of the above items happen, the boy proceeds to run toward the stones in the following order b, c, d, a. If any of the players hit the runner with the ball at any time, he is out. The runner may stop at any of the stones, if he feels that he will be put out. When the next boy is up to bat, he may not run past any boy that batted before him. The runners may continue around the bases as soon as the ball is thrown. Play continues until all the members of a team are out, then the two teams switch places.

Differences between Rounders and Modern Baseball

  1. People in the field do not have definite positions.
  2. The batter runs around the bases in the opposite direction.
  3. The in-party continues to bat until everyone on the side is out.
  4. If a ball is caught when hit, those on base do not have to go back to the base they were on. They may try to go to the next base.
  5. A player is not out if his opponent touches the base and his holding the ball. He must either catch the ball before it touches the ground or touch the runner with the ball.
  6. There are no gloves, uniforms, or store bought bats.
  7. There are no foul balls.

It is not essential to have four bases. The players may choose to have more or fewer bases.

Active Games

(19th century instructions precede modern instructions)

This game is usually played out of doors; because more convenient hiding-places are to be found there. All the company hide, except one; who is kept blinded, until she hears them call. "Whoop!" She then takes the bandage from her eyes and begins to search for them. If she catches a glimpse of any one, and knows who it is, she calls her by name, "I spy Harriet!" or "I spy Mary!" The one who is thus discovered, must start and run for the place where the other was first blinded. If she do not reach the spot, without being touched by her pursuer, she must take her place. (Child, 55)

This game is very similar to Hide and Seek we play today. Do not call it by its modern name. There is another game called Hide and Seek in 19th century. The instructions can be found below. With this game, those hiding stay out of sight until the one spying spots them, or until the searcher touches one of the others hiding. Once a girl has been touched, the game begins again with that child becoming the new searcher. The game directly following, is a different version of the same game.


This game is played as follows: -- All the players but one, collect at a place called "home," while one goes off and hides himself. When ready, he shouts "Whoop oh!" The others sally out to find him; he who discovers the hidden player, calls out "Whoop oh!" The hidden player then breaks from his concealment, and if he can catch one of the others, the one so caught must carry him on his back to "home." It is then the boy's turn who has made the discovery to go and hide himself, and the others endeavour to discover his lurking place as before. (Clarke, 34)

In this game, only person hides, and every one else tries to find him. When he is spotted he must run to the location marked as "home." If he is caught, he must hide again. If he is not caught, the one who first located him must hide. This is a slight rule change from the original text, but Youth Interpreters should not be carrying each other, as they might hurt themselves. Again do not call this game Hide and Seek. In 1836 that was a different game.


One goes out of the room, while the others hide a thimble, pocket handkerchief, or something of that sort. When they are ready, they call "Whoop!" and she enters. If she moves toward the place they cry, "You burn!" "Now you burn more!" If she goes very near, they say, "Oh! You are almost blazing!" If she moves from the object, they say, "How cold she grows!" If the article is found the one who hid it must take the next turn to seek for it. (Child, 56)

This game is often known as Hot and Cold today. Please refer to it by Hide and Go Seek, so we can show how games change names. The same game is also mentioned in The Boy's Own Book. The only difference in rules is that all the children except the one that hid the object look for the object. (Clarke 34)


This is usually an in-door game, although there is no objection to its being played on a dry piece of turf than that the slipper cannot be heard when struck by its momentary possessor, when passing round the joyous ring. Several young persons sit in the ground in a circle, a slipper is given to them, and one, who generally volunteers to accept the office in order to begin the game, stands in the centre, and whose business it is to "chase the slipper by its sound." The parties who are seated, pass it round so as to prevent, if possible, its being found in the possession of any individual. In order that the player in the centre may know where the slipper is, it is occasionally tapped on the ground, and then suddenly handed on to the right or left. When the slipper is found in the possession of any one in the circle, by the player who is hunting it, the party on whom it is so found, takes the latter player's place. (Clarke, 35)

All but one of the players sit in a circle on the floor. The one not in the circle stands in the center. The people in the circle pass about a shoe or other small object like a rock, checker, or ring. It does not always have to go the same direction. To fool the person trying to guess where the slipper is, all of the people seated should continually move their hands as if they are passing the slipper. At certain times, someone should tap the slipper on the floor before they pass it on to give the person a chance to guess where the slipper is. This game is also found in The Girl's Own Book. (Child, 43)


This is a very simple game, but a lively and amusing one. In each corner of the room, or by four trees which form nearly a square, a little girl is stationed: another one stands in the centre, who is called the Puss. At the words, "Puss, puss in the corner!" they all start and run to change corner; and at the same time the one in the middle runs to take possession of the corner before the others can reach it. If she succeed in getting to the corner first, the one who is left out is obliged to become the puss. If A and B undertake to exchange corners, and A gets to B's corner, but puss gets into A's, then B must stand on the centre. In order to avoid confusion and knocking each other down, it is well to agree in what direction you will run before the race begins. If a little girl remains puss after three or four times, going round the room, they sometimes agree that she shall pay a forfeit. (Child. 28)

Play this game in the grove behind the school. While it was sometimes played inside, there is a chance that we could damage an artifact, so always "choose" to play outdoors. Position one child at each tree in the grove, and put one child in the middle, called puss. She calls out, "Puss, puss in the corner!" and every child must run to a different tree. At the same time, puss tries to take her place at a tree as well. If she succeeds then the child left without a tree is the new puss; if she does not get to a tree before the others, she is puss again. If you have more than five children playing, two children can be at each tree, and you can even have two children play puss. This game is also included in The Boy's Own Book. (Clarke, 23) If you want to play this in a lady-like manner, before the game begins, chose which direction you want to run and make sure all players run in that direction. If you want a more robust version, as Clarke suggests, players may run to any tree you wish. (23) When deciding which set of rules, be sure to keep in mind the characters who are playing.


In the beginning, some one is chosen to perform the part of purchaser. She stands apart, while the others arrange themselves in a long file, one behind the other, each taking hold of her neighbour's sleeve. The little girl who happens to be at the head is a baker; all the others form the oven, with the exception of the last one who is called the French Roll. The baker does not keep her station long, as you will see. As soon as the file is formed, the purchaser, the purchaser comes up to the baker, and says," Give me my roll." The baker answers, "It is behind the oven." The purchaser goes in search of it, and at the same moment the little girl at the end, who is called the roll, lets go her companion's sleeve, and runs up on the side opposite the purchaser, crying when she starts, "Who runs? Who runs?" Her object is to get in front of the baker before the purchaser can catch her. Is she succeed, she becomes baker, and the little girl who stood next above her becomes the roll; if she does not succeed, she has to take the place of the purchaser, and the purchaser becomes baker. This play is very active, and rather a noisy, one. When the company get fully engaged in it, there is nothing heard but "Give me my roll!" "It is behind the oven." "Who runs? Who runs?" As they do not run very far, they can run very quick, without fatigue; and as they are changing places all the time, each one has a share of the game. Sometimes they make it a rule, that every one who is caught in trying to get before the baker, shall pay a forfeit; but when they stop to pay forfeits, the game is not so animated. (Child, 31-2)

One child is chosen as the purchaser. The rest of the players get in a single file line, each holding onto the sleeve beside her. The girl in the front of the line is the baker, and the girl at the end is roll. The purchaser says to the baker, "Give me my roll." The baker replies, "It is behind the oven." When the roll hears this she runs to the front of the line, saying, "Who runs? Who runs?" The purchaser runs to the back of the line to get the roll, and chases her toward the front. If the roll can get to the baker before the purchaser catches her, she becomes the baker, the former baker stands behind the new one to help form the oven, the purchaser remains in her present position, and the girl who is now at the end of the line is the roll. If the roll gets caught, she becomes the purchaser, the purchaser becomes the baker, the former baker stands behind the new one to help form the oven, and the girl who is now at the end of the line is the roll. This game should be played as quickly as possible.


This game being merely a trial of strength, may be thought unsuitable to little girls; but I know that families of brothers and sisters are very found of it. It consists of two parties, whose numbers are equal. A line is drawn on the ground, or on the floor, and the object of each of these parties is to draw the other entirely over it. When every one is drawn over, the other side call them prisoners, and claim a victory. Those who join hands in the centre, should be very careful not to let go suddenly, for this would be sure to occasion violent and dangerous falls. (Child, 61)

This is a tug-of-war game. A line is drawn in the dirt. Instead of a rope, the children hold each other Tug of War: French and Englisharound the waist. They form two lines and face each other. Those at the front of the lines hold hands. The two lines pull in opposite directions, and the first team to pull the other completely across the line is the winner. French and English is also found in The Boy's Own Book. (Clarke, 31)


This is a sport of emulation; the object is to ascertain which of the players concerned can, eventually, go over the greatest portion of ground in a hop, a step, and a jump, performed in succession, and which may be taken either standing or with a run, as may be agreed, at the outset, between the players. (Clarke, 36)

Draw a line on the ground. From this line, players take one hop, one step, and one jump. The person, who goes the farthest, wins. Players can decide if they want to do the leaps from a standing position, or if they want a running start.


A circle of girls hold each other firmly by the hand; one in the centre, touches one pair of hands, saying, "Here I bake;" another saying, "Here I brew;" another saying, "Here I make my wedding-cake;" another, saying, "Here I mean to break through." As she says the last phrase she pushes hard, to separate their hands; if she succeed, the one whose hand gave way takes her place; if not, she keeps going the rounds till she can break through. Sometimes they exact a forfeit from any one who tries three times without success; but it is usually played without forfeits. (Child, 62)

All players except one stand in a circle and hold hands. The remaining girl stands in the middle and touches the hands of the players as she says "Here I bake, Here I brew, Here I make my wedding-cake, Here I mean to break through." At the end of the poem, she tries to push through the clasp hands of the last two hands she touched. If she succeeds, one of the girls who let go must go to the middle. If she does not break through, she must try again. This game is for girls only.

Without a bold and active leader this sport is dull and monotonous; with one possessing the necessary qualifications it is quite the contrary. Any number may play it. A leader is fixed on and the other players range themselves behind him. He commences the sport, by some feat of agility, such as leaping, hopping or climbing, and his followers then attempt to perform it in succession. He then goes to another trial of skill; the others, or so many of them that are able to do so, follow his example, and thus the sport proceeds until the parties think it fit to cease. The most nimble and active should, of course, be chosen as the leader; he should perform feats of such difficulty as to render the sport interesting, at the same time avoiding such as he knows can only be undertaken by himself, or by one or two of his followers. If one boy can perform a feat, which those who are placed before him in rank fail in attempting, he takes precedence of them until he is, in like manner excelled by any of those who are behind him. (Clarke, 24

One child is chosen as the leader and all the other children are lined up behind him. The leader performs a skill and all the others must perform the same skill. The leader must try to make the skill challenging, but must take into consideration the abilities of the other players and not ask the followers to perform a dangerous skill that is too difficult. If a child performs a skill and the boy in front of him could not, then the boy who succeeded gets to move ahead of the boy who was in front of him.


How to Shoot a Marble

First, turn your hand so that your palm is facing up and lay the back of your hand on the ground. Place the marble on your index finger near the palm of your hand and curl your finger around the marble to hold it in place. Place your thumb behind the marble. Use your thumb as the force to shoot the marble as if you were going to flip a coin with your thumb.

Marble Terms


Getting fat—losing all of your marbles so that you are out of the game

Offing—the line from which marbles are shot

Pound—circle or ring where marbles are placed

Span—the length between a person's thumb and smallest finger when the hand is spread apart

Snop—hit an opponent's marble with one of your own

Taw—shooter marble

Types of Marbles

Most Prairietown children would have clay marbles baked by the sun (called muddies) or fired in a kiln. They would know about glass marbles, which were primarily made in Europe, and used on the eastern seaboard. Some marbles were made of marble stone as well.

Marble Games

(19th century instructions precede modern instructions for the same game)


This is the most simple of all games with marbles; one player first shoots his marble, the second then endeavours to strike or snop it, or otherwise, to shoot his own within a span of it. If he miss, or do not fire within the span, the first player, from the spot where his marble rest, in like manner, shoots at that of the second; and so on until a snop or span is made, when the marble snopped or spanned is take the game is begun anew, by the winner. (Clarke, 9)

This game is played with two children who each have one marble. The first player shoots his marble. The second player tries to hit (snop) the first player's marble with his own or come as close to hitting it as possible. If the second player comes within a hand's width (span) of hitting the first player's marble, he wins. If he does not, the first player tries his turn at hitting the second player's marble. Play continues until a snop or a span is made. The winner begins the next game.


Three small holes are dug, about a yard and a half asunder; a line is drawn about two yards from the first hole, from which the players begin the game. Chance decides who shall have the first shoot; the object is to drive the marble into the first hole; if this be done, the player shoots again, at the distance of a span towards the second. If however, he miss the hole the other player begins, and each shoots, alternately, as the other misses. After having shot the marble into a hole, the player is allowed, if his adversary's marble be near, to drive it with his own as far as he can, and if he strike it, to shoot again. The game is won by the player who gets first into the last hole, in the following order: -- first hole, second, third, -- second, first, -- second, third. (Clarke, 10)

This game can be played with any number of players each using one marble. Dig three small holes in the ground 1½ yards apart from each other. Draw an offing two yards from the first hole. The first person places his hand behind the line and shoots his marble toward the first hole. 19th Century MarblesIf the marble lands in the hole, he takes the marble out of the hole, places it one span from the hole and shoots the marble toward the second hole. His turn continues until he misses a hole. If a player puts a marble in a hole, he has the option to shoot his marble at an opponent's marble and send it as far away from the holes as possible. If he hits the opponent's marble, he may take another turn. If he misses the marble, his turn is done. The winner is the first person to get his marble through all holes in the following order: -- first hole, second, third, second, first, second, third.


The rules of Ring-taw vary in different places; the following are the most general: --a circle is drawn into which each party places as many marbles as may be agreed on. A line called the offing, is then drawn at some distance, from which each in turn shoots at the ring. Shooting a marble out of the ring, entitles the shooter to go on again, and thus the ring may be sometimes cleared by a good player, before his companion or companions have a chance. After the first fire, the players return no more to the offing but shoot, when their turn comes, from the place where their marbles rested on the last occasion. Every marble struck out of the ring, is won by the striking party; but if the taw at any time remain in the ring, the player is not only out, but if he have, previously, in the course of the game, struck out any marbles, he must put them in the ring again. - And if one player strike with his taw the taw of another, the player whose taw is so struck, is out; and if he have, previously, shot any marbles out of the circle, he must hand them over to the party by whose taw his has been so struck. (Clarke, 11)

This game can be played with any number of participants. Draw a ring in the dirt and place an agreed upon number of marbles inside. Draw an offing at least two spans from the ring. The first player keeps his hand behind the offing and shoots his taw into the ring to try to hit a marble out of the ring. His play continues until he fails to hit a marble out of the ring. Each marble struck out of the ring is won by the person who struck it. After the first shot from the offing, the players shoot their taws from where they lie. If a player fails to shoot his taw out of the ring, he is out of the game and must put all the marbles he has shot out of the ring, if any, back into the ring. If a player strikes an opponent's taw, the player whose taw was struck must give all of the marbles he has won, if any, to the person who struck him and he is out of the game. The winner is the child with the most marbles after all the marbles have been shot out of the ring.


This is superior to any other game with marbles. It differs from "Ring-taw" in the following particulars: - If, previously to any marble or shot being struck out of the ring or pound, the taw of one of the players be struck by the taw of another, (except that of his partner,) or in the case he shoot his taw within the pound, in either case, he puts a shot in the ring, and before either of the others play, shoots from the offing and continues in the game; but if the first of these events occurs after one or more shots have been struck out of the pound, if he have previously, during the game obtained any shots himself, he hands them over to the party who has struck him, and also puts a shot in as before, previously to his shooting from the offing; but if he have previously obtained no shots during the game, he is put out of the game entirely, or "killed," by his taw being so struck: and again, if after a shot or shots having been struck out of the pound, his taw get within it, (on the line is nothing) he puts in shots, if he have obtained any, with an additional one, into the pound, and shoots from the offing; but if he have not obtained a shot or shots after his taw so remains within the ring, "or gets fat," as it is called, he is "killed," and stands out for the remainder of the game. When there is only one marble left in the ring, the taw may then remain inside it, without being "fat" at this game. The players seldom put more than one marble each in the ring at first. (Clarke, 12)

This game is played with a minimum of two teams of two players. It is set up and played like Ring-taw with the following additions to the rules. Only one marble per player is placed in the ring to begin the game. All players have extra marbles to be used to add to the ring. Before any of the marbles have been struck out of the ring, if a player strikes an opponent's taw or fails to send his own taw out of the ring, that player is not out, but must put one marble in the ring. When it is his turn again, he shoots from the offing, rather than where the taw landed. Once the first marble is shot out of the ring, the rules change. If a player's taw is struck by an opponent's, the player who is struck must put one marble in the ring, and give all the rest of his marbles he has won to the player who struck him. At his next turn he must start again by shooting from the offing. If the person who has been struck has no marbles to give to the ring and the opponent, he is out of the game. If a player's taw remains in the ring after a shot, he must put all the marbles he has won plus one of his extra marbles into the ring and shoot from the offing when his turn comes. Again, if he has no marbles, he is out of the game. When there is only one marble left in the ring, the taws may remain in the ring without penalty. The winner is the team with the most marbles.

The Hoop

Metal or wooden hoop
Wooden stick
Hoop Game

(19h century instructions precede modern instructions)

Every body knows how to trundle the Hoop in the usual way: several pairs of tin squares are sometimes nailed to the inner part of the hoop, which produce, in the opinion of some lads, an agreeable jingle. In some parts of England, boys drive their hoops one against the other, and the player whose hoop falls in these encounters, is conquered. (Clarke, 28)

Hold the stick in one hand and the hoop in the other. Place one end of the stick on the ground and hold the stick so that it forms a 45-degree angle to the ground. Roll the hoop down the stick and push the hoop with the stick when it loses momentum. Players can see who can roll the hoop the farthest or the fastest. Players can also run the hoop around obstacles. Two players can aim their hoops at each other, the boy who owns the hoop that is standing after the collision wins.

Graces or La Grace

Solid wooden hoop, such as an embroidery hoop
Four sticks about 1 inch in diameter
How to play La Grace

(19th century instructions precede modern instructions)

This is a new game, common in Germany, but introduced into this country from France. It derives its name from the graceful attitudes which it occasions. Two sticks are held in the hands, across each other, like open scissors: the object is to throw and catch a small hoop upon these sticks. The hoop to be bound with silk, or ribbon, according to fancy. The game is played by two persons. The sticks are held straight about four inches apart, when trying to catch the hoop; and when the hoop is thrown, they are crossed like a pair of scissors. In this country it is called The Graces, or The Flying Circle. (Child, 105-6)

Two people play this game. Each girl holds one stick in each hand. One girl crosses her sticks so they look like an open pair of scissors, and she put the hoop over the sticks. This girl flings the hoop toward her partner, and the partner tries to catch the hoop with her sticks. Play continues back and forth. The object of the game is to toss the hoop back and forth without letting it fall to the ground. This game is designed to teachyoung ladies graceful movements

Jumping Rope

Both boys and girls played this game. Again, because of the familiarity with this sport, I have only given the 19th century texts.
From The Girl's Own Book

This play should likewise be used with caution. It is a healthy exercise, and tends to make the form graceful; but it should be used with moderation. I have known instances of blood vessels burst by young ladies, who, in a silly attempt to jump a certain number of hundred times, have persevered in jumping after their strength was exhausted. There are several ways of jumping rope:

  1. Simply springing and passing the rope under the feet with rapidity.
  2. Crossing arms at the moment of throwing the rope.
  3. Passing the rope under the feet of two or three, jump at once, standing close, and laying hands on each other's shoulders.
  4. The rope held by two little girls, one at each end, and thrown over at third, who jumps in the middle.

The more difficult feats should not be attempted, until the simpler ones are perfectly learned. A smooth hard surface should be chosen to jump upon, where there is nothing to entangle or obstruct the feet. (Child, 103-4)

From The Boy's Own Book

A long rope is swang round by a player at each end of it; when it moves tolerably regular, one, two or even more boys, step in between those who hold the rope, suffering it to pass over their heads as it rises, and leaping up so that it goes under their feet when it touches the ground, precisely as in the case of a common skipping-rope. The principal difficulty in this sport is, to run between the players at the proper moment of time, that is, just as the rope is at highest elevation, so as to be ready to jump over when, in its circuit, it comes toward the feet. Care must be taken that due time be kept in the leaps, so that they may perfectly accord with the motion of the rope.

There is another mode of playing with a long skipping-rope, namely, by the player at one end of it, advancing a step or two toward the other, keeping the hand which holds the rope on the outside, and then, with the assistance of the player on the other end, turning the rope round, and skipping over it in its circuit. (Clarke, 36-7)


(19th century instructions precede modern instructions)

Walking on stilts is practised by the shepherds of the Landes, or desert, in the south of France…. Stilts are easily constructed: two poles are procured, and at some distance from their ends, a loop of leather or rope is securely fastened; in these the feet are placed, the poles are kept in a proper position by the hands, and put forward by the action of the legs. A superior mode of making stilts is by substituting a piece of wood, flat on the upper surface, for the leather loop; the foot rests on and is fastened by a strap to it; a piece of leather or rope is also nailed to the stilt, and passed round the leg just below the knee; stilts made in this manner do not reach to the hands, but are managed entirely by the feet and legs. In many parts of England, boys and youth frequently amuse themselves by walking on stilts. (Clarke, 73-4)
Take two long poles of equal length. At the smaame height, nail a flat piece of wood perpendicular to each pole sot that it forms a small step. Hold poles at angle so that the end of the pole closest to the step is facing down. Wrap an arm around each pole so that your shoulder is in front of the pole, but your elbow is behind the pole. Place one foot on the step, and as you place your second foot up, pull the poles so that they are perpendicular with the ground. Pull up with the stilt at the same time you take a step. Take small steps to begin.


Why Girls Should Dance
Many people object to dancing, because they consider it a waste of time; but I believe it is only wrong when too much time is given to it, to the neglect of more important duties. Children must have excerise; and dancing is healthy, innocent, and elegant. Those who learn to dance when very young, acquire an ease of motion that can be gained in no other way: at a very early age, the joints bend easily and if a habit of moving gracefully is then acquired, it is never lost. Little girls should practise their steps at home every day; it will serve for exercise and amusement, and tend greatly to their improvement. Great care should be taken to turn the feet outward; nothing is more awkward, either in walking or dancing, than feet turn inward; by taking a little pains, the instep will habitually curve outward the moment the foot is raised from the floor. The arms should never remain crooked, so as to give the elbows a sharp, inelegant appearance. Care should be taken to carry the shoulders back, and the head erect; a dancer who stoops, or runs her chin out, is a pitiful sight. Here I would tell those who are round shouldered or carry their heads too much forward, of an excellent way to cure these bad habits: walk an hour, or more, every day, with a large heavy book balanced on your head, without any assistance from your hands. The lower orders of Egyptian women are remarkable for walking majestically and gracefully; and it is because they constantly go down to the Nil, to bring up heavy burdens of water upon their heads.

Lastly never toss your feet about, or rise too high from the floor; ruly graceful dancing is gliding, not jumping. But, on the other hand, you must not walk round languidly and carelessly, as if you had no interest in dance; what is worthy of being done at all, is worthy of being done well. (Child, 117-8)

The above paragraphs would most likely coincide with the Campbell's point of view about dancing. Farm families like the McClure's, Andrew's, Johnson's, and Baker's would see dancing as something fun to do and would not be as concerned about the benefits a young lady would receive. The Curtis' would not approve of dancing. Their religion, Methodist Episcopal, states that dancing leads to sinful behavior. It would not be fitting for people unmarried to each other to be holding each other while dancing.

In the 19th century, line and square dances were called contra dances. In these dances, boys and girls were in two separate lines, and throughout the dance they would meet and then part from one another. The waltz was a more modern dance and one of the first dances where two people were constantly in contact with each other. It is perfectly acceptable for girls to dance with each other.

Types of Dances

(19th century instructions precede modern instructions when modern ones are necessary)

A bench is set at the head of the dance area. Boys line on the left of the bench in a single file line that runs perpendicular to the bench. The girls line up on the right in the same manner. One boy sits in the middle of the bench and holds a broom. A girl sits on each side of the boy. When the music starts the boy gives the broom to one of the girls. The girl who does not get the broom becomes the boy's partner. They hold hands and sashay down the dance floor until they reach the end of the lines of boys and girls. They then stand at the end of their respective lines and the girl with the broom moves to the middle of the bench. Two boys join her, one on either side, and she chooses a partner by handing the broom to the one with whom she does not want to dance. The dance continues until everyone has danced at least once. This dance is always done at the McClure-Cox wedding. To begin the dance, James, the groom, must decide if he wants to dance with his mother, or his new bride, Ada Noreen. Because of the simplicity of the dance, this is an excellent one to teach to visitors.

This is a simple kind of dance. A line of young ladies take hold of each other's hands: one stands perfectly still, while the others dance around her, winding and stopping - winding and stopping - until they are all formed into a knot. Then they gradually untwist in the same manner, as they form the knot they sing, "Twine the garland, girls!" and when they unwind, they sing, "Untwine the garland, girls!" (Child, 54)19th Century Dancing
Girls should line up and hold each other's hands. The girl in the middle of the line should stand still, while the rest of the line should dance around her, still holding hands. The girls can go in opposite directions and under each other's arms, until all are in a tangled knot. Then everyone must reverse their steps and try to form a straight line again. Throughout the dance, the girls must continue to hold each other's hands.

Thread the needle may be played by a considerable number of boys, who all join hands, and the game commences with the following dialogue between the two outside players at each end of the line: "How many miles to Babylon?" "Threescore and ten." "Can I get there by candlelight?" "Yes, and back again." "Then open the gates without more ado, and let the king and his men pass through." In obedience to this mandate, the player who stands at the opposite end of the line and the one next to him, lift their joined hands as high as possible; the other outside player then approaches, runs under the hands elevated, and the whole line follows him if possible, without disuniting. This is threading the needle. The same dialogue is repeated, the respondent now becoming the inquirer, and running between the two players at the other end with the whole line after him. The first then has his turn again. (Clarke, 34-5)

This game works best with a large number of children. While it is not specifically a dance in itself, threading the needle is a dance step in some contra dances. All players form a line, and begin by the two outside players reciting the poem quoted above. After the last line, the person who said, "Yes, and back again," and the child next to him should hold up their joined hands as high as they can, forming an arch for the children to pass under. The child at the other end who asked the questions, should run toward the arch, with all of the others following behind him and all try to go through the arch with their hands joined. When this is done, the game begins again with the arch being made at the other end. While playing this game, take turns being on the ends, so everyone gets a chance to be the leader. Try to get through the gate as fast as possible without letting go of each other's hands.

Two little girls stand with their arms raised, so as to form an arch. The rest of the company arrange themselves in a file, each taking hold of the next one's gown: in this manner they pass through the arch singing, "Open the gates sky high, And let King George's troops pass by!" By suddenly lowering the arches, the last one is caught; and unless she answers promptly any question put to her, she must pay a forfeit. (Child, 45)
This game is played like London Bridge. Please note that there are different words to the say, and that if caught in the arch, a child must answer a question asked by the children who form the arch. Look under the heading Forfeits for a listing of punishments, you can give a girl that does not answer the question given to her.

There are many variations to this dance. It requires lively music and one person to call the steps. The head of the line is closest to the caller, the foot is the other end. The head couple is at the head of the line, and couples are numbered two, three, etc. as they move from head to foot. The participants form two lines facing each other; girls in one line, boys in the other. This is called "home." There should be equal numbers in each line and the lines should be far enough apart that a couple can walk between them. To begin the dance, all dancers take two steps toward their partner and bow or curtsey and then step back. This is repeated. Partners join right hands and turn in a circle once and return home. Repeat with left hands, then both hands. Everyone folds their arms over their chests. They walk toward their partner and circle to the right and return home. This is called Do-si-do. Do-si-do to the left. Partners hook right elbows together, turn once, and return home. Repeat with the left elbow. Partners hook right elbows together and make a half turn, then switch elbows and go the opposite direction to return home. Head couple links right arms, do a half turn and release arms, then head boy links left arms with girl number two and head girl links left arms with boy number two. They each do a half turn boy and girl number two return home and the head boy and girl repeat the turns with each other and the rest of the people in line. When the head couple gets to the foot, they sashay up the center, holding hands. At the head of the line, the head couple drops hands and walks to the outside of their respective lines. The rest of the people in each line follow the head couple. When the head couple gets to the foot of the line they join hands and makes an arch for all of the couples to go under. The head couple stays at the end of the line, and all couples move one space forward, so that couple number two is now the new head couple. Repeat the dance until everyone has gotten to be the head couple. (Hughes)

These are done as punishments when someone makes an error in a game. Girls usually use them.

  • To laugh in one corner, cry in another, and sing in a third. To stand in the middle of the room, and first make up a very woeful face, then a very merry one….Rub one hand on your forehead, at the same time you strike the other on your heart, without changing the motion of either for an instant.
  • To stand up… and make whatever motions or grimaces you are ordered without laughing. Young ladies should be very particular never to exact anything awkward, or improper.
  • Kiss your shadow in every corner of the room, without laughing.
  • Repeat, without mistake, any difficult sentence which your companions appoint.
  • Make two lines rhyme; or if one line be given, find a rhyme to it.
  • Say five flattering things to the one who sits next to you, without making use of the letter L.
  • Imitate, without laughing, such animals as your companions name.
  • Say to each person in the room, "you can't say boo to a goose!" (Child, 99-101)


Stationary Games

(Only 19th century instructions are printed except when they are especially difficult to understand.)


In this game the party sit in a circle; one throws a handkerchief at another, and calls, "Air!" The person whom the handkerchief hits, must name some creature that belongs in the air, before the caller can count ten, which he does in a loud voice as fast as possible. If a creature that does not live in the air is named, or if the person fails to speak quickly enough, a forfeit must be paid. The person who catches the handkerchief throws it to another, in turn, calls out "Earth!" The person who is hit must call out elephant, or ox, or any creature which lives upon the earth, in the same space of time allowed the other. She then throws the handkerchief to another and calls out, "Water!" The one who catches the handkerchief observes the same rules as the preceding, and is liable to the same forfeits. Any one who mentions a bird, beast, or fish, twice, is likewise liable to a forfeit. If any one player calls out, "Fire!" every one must keep silence, because no creature lives in that element. (Child, 31)

Everyone sits in a circle. One girl throws a handkerchief to another and names one of the four elements, water, earth, air, or fire. She then counts to ten loudly and quickly. The girl who caught the handkerchief must name an animal that lives in that element. If she fails to name an animal in the time allotted, names an animal that does not live in the element called, or names an animal already named, she must pay a forfeit. Remember to name animals with which your character would be familiar.

A little girl says to her companion, I love you, A, because you are amiable; B, because you are beautiful; C, because you are careful; D, because you are diligent; E, because you are elegant; F, because you are funny; and so on to the end of the alphabet. X is of course omitted, for no English word begins with that letter. Any letter omitted, or a reason given which does not begin with the letter you name, demands a forfeit. (Child, 20)

The company are ranged in a circle, with one in the centre, who places the fore-finger of her right hand upon her knee and all the others put their fore-fingers around it. If the one in the centre raises her finger, saying at the same instant, "fly away, pigeon!" or "Fly away, sparrow!" the others must raise their fingers in the same manner; but if for the sake of mischief, she exclaims, "Fly away, trout!" or "Fly away, elephant!" the others must be careful not to move their fingers, else they must pay a forfeit. That is, the fingers must all rise if a creature is mentioned that can fly; and kept quiet if a thing which cannot fly is named. As it is done with great rapidity, it requires quick ears and quick thoughts. Sometimes things which fly only by accident are mentioned; such as a feather, a leaf, a sheet of paper, thistle-down, a veil, &c. In this case, all the players never make up their minds soon enough; some fingers will rise, and some keep still; and often debates will arise to determine which is right. "I am sure a leaf don't fly," says one; "I am sure it does fly in the wind," says another, &c. The one in the centre decided all disputed questions. This game brings laughing and forfeits in abundance. (Child, 35-6)

This is a favourite game among children. One stands up in a chair who is called the "Grand Mufti." He makes whatever motion he pleases, such as putting his hand on heart, stretching out his arm, smiting his forehead, making up a sorrowful face, &c. At each motion he says, "Thus says the Grand Mufti!" or, "So says the Grand Mufti!" When he says, "Thus says the Grand Mufti!" everyone must make just such a motion as he does; but when he says, "So says the Grand Mufti!" every one must keep still. A forfeit for a mistake. (Child, 42-3)

The above two games, "Fly Away Pigeon" and "Thus Says the Grand Mufti," are very similar to "Simon Says." Please do not stand on chairs and remember to use period words and actions.

Four little girls each hold the corner of a handkerchief. One standing by says, "Hold fast!" and then they must all drop the corners they are holding. When she says, "Let go!" they must be sure and keep hold! Those who fail to do this, must pay a forfeit. (Child, 42)

This is a very lively and interesting game. Any number of children expecting seven, both boys and girls, seat themselves round a table, or in a circle. One begins the game by saying, "One!" the little girl to the left says, "Two!" and so it goes round till it arrives at seven, which number must not be mentioned, but in place thereof the word "Buz!" Wherever the number seven occurs, or any number into which seven may be multiplied, "Buz!" must be used instead of that number. Such are the numbers 7, 14, 17, 21, 27, 28, 35, 37, &c. &c. Any one mentioning any number with seven in it instead of "Buz!" or calling out of her turn or naming the wrong number, must pay a forfeit. After she has paid her forfeit, she calls out, "One!" and so it goes round again to the left, by which means each has to say a different number. When by a little practise the circle get as high as seventy-one, then "Buz-one!" "Buz-two!" &c. must be used; and for seventy-seven, "Buz-buz!" and so on. If the person whose turn it is to speak delays longer than while any one of the circle can moderately count five, she must pay a forfeit. (Child, 39)

As children always like to imitate what they see, nothing pleases them more than to play giving a party; bowing and courtesying, and handing around little plates. &c. &c. (Child, 75)

|Little girls often hold two pins in their hands, and ask, "which is uppermost, heads or points?" If the one asked guesses right, she takes one of the pins; if she guesses wrong, she gives a pin. (Child, 74)
This game is similar to "Heads or Tails." Since we do not have our own pins to give, if a girl guesses right, she gets to be the one to hold the pins and the other girl guess. If she guess wrong, she has to guess again.

This is likewise a favourite amusement with little children. One acts the part of the school-mistress, and all the others mist obey her. They read, say lessons, bring their work to be fitted, are ordered to stand in the corner of the room for whispering, &c. (Child, 75)

Place two, three, or even four penny pieces, in a heap, on your elbow…; drop your elbow suddenly, and bring your hand to a little below where your elbow was, and you may catch them all. It is impossible, however, to accomplish this, unless you bring your hand exactly beneath the place of your elbow, and perform the motion with quickness. (Clarke, 73)

Raise your arm so that your elbow is bent and your hand is facing palm-up next to your ear. Your forearm should be parallel to the ground. Place a small object, like a rock or corn kernel, on the end of your elbow. In one swift motion, swing your shoulder so that your elbow drops and bring your hand to just below where your elbow used to be. After practise you may add more pieces to your elbow.

Board Games


Many board games were drinking and gambling games, but they can be played without doing either. No one is to pretend as if he is drinking alcohol as part of the game or gamble on it. Many games specify that if a family does not want dice in the house they may play with a totem, or spinner. Conner Prairie does not have a totem, so we must use dice. All of the period instructions are printed on the store-bought games. Letters that look like fancy F's should be read as S's.

Store-bought Games in Village



This game is played by two to six players. Each person should have one game piece called a traveler, and four markers called servants. The person who rolls the highest number starts the game. When it is a player's turn, roll the dice and proceed the number of spaces that has been rolled. Follow the instructions on the board that corresponds with the number landed on. Each number has a geographic fact and some have further instructions as to what the player is to do. The first person to land exactly at 103 wins the game. If a player rolls the dice so that number will be greater than 103, he must return to 89 and try again on his next turn.

THE NEW GAME OF HUMAN LIFE (in Campbell House)

Any number of people can play this game. The person who rolls the highest number starts the game. To begin, roll dice and move forward the number that has been rolled. Read the middle section to see what action is to be taken. In addition to the instructions in the middle, the board is divided into the seven ages of man. Every 12th square is a new age. If a person lands on square 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, or 72, she goes past that square the same number that dice reads. So if her game piece is on 20 and she rolls a 4, she lands on 24, then proceeds four more spaces to 28. The first person to land exactly on 84 wins the game. If a person rolls so that the number will be greater than 84, she must go back the number she rolled.

THE ROYAL PASTIME OF CUPID (in the Golden Eagle)

Any number of people can play this game. The person who rolls the highest number starts the game. To begin, roll dice and move forward the number that has been rolled. The first person to roll a seven gets a bonus. If he rolls a 1 and a 6, he moves to space 16, a 2 and a 5 - space 25, or a 4 and a 3 - space 43. If a player lands on a spot that is occupied by a player, the player who was there first must move back to the spot from where the second player just came. If a person lands on a cupid, he gets to move ahead the same number of spaces he just rolled. If a player lands on space 5, he moves to space 12 and then loses one turn. If a person lands on space 30, he must stay there until someone passes him. If he lands on space 38, he loses one turn. If a player lands on space 46, he moves back to space 43. If a person lands on space 54, he must stay there until someone passes him. The first person to land exactly on 63 wins the game. If he rolls so that the number will be greater than 63, he must go back as far as it is over 63. If a player is on space 60 and he rolls a 5, he must go forward three, then back two.

THE GAME OF GOOSE (in the Golden Eagle)

Any number of people greater than two can play this game. The person who rolls the highest number starts the game. To begin, roll dice and move forward the number that has been rolled. If a player lands on a spot that is occupied by a player, the player who was there first must move back to the spot from where the second player just came. If a player lands on the bridge, she moves across to number 12. If a player lands on the inn or the well, she must skip two turns. If the player lands on the maze, she must go back to number 30. If a player lands in the prison, she must stay there until someone else lands on the prison square. If a person lands on the skull, she must start over at space 1. If a player lands on the dice or on a goose, she may take another turn. The first person to land exactly on 63 wins the game. If he rolls so that the number will be greater than 63, he must go back as far as it is over 63. If a player is on space 60 and he rolls a 5, he must go forward three, then back two (Provenzo, 22-3)

Nine Men's Morris

9 beans
9 kernels of corn
Game board as shown to the right

How to Play Nine Men's Morris

Two people play this game. Players choose either beans or corn as their game pieces. Players take turns putting their pieces on the game board. Each player tries to get three of her pieces in a row, diagonally, vertically, or horizontally, while trying to prevent her opponent from doing the same. When a player succeeds in placing three pieces in a row, she may take one of her opponent's pieces. When both players have all their pieces on the board, each player moves one of her pieces along the lines one space as she continues to get three pieces in a row. When a player has only three pieces left, she may move her pieces anywhere on the board without following the lines. The game concludes when one player has only two pieces left and so can no longer make a row of three. This player loses the game. (Provenzo, 31-3)

Draughts, or Checkers

Draught Terms

Draughts—checkers (also called men)
King—a checker that has moved to the opponent's side and has been "crowned" with an additional checker
Standing a huff—refusing or forgetting to take an opponent's checker when a player has the opportunity to do so
Preface to Draughts
To teach his grandson Draughts, then,
His leisure he'd employ,
Until at last the old man
Was beaten by the boy.

Draughts is a game which is well to learn prior to commencing chess; though by far inferior to that noble pastime, it is at once unobjectionable and amusing. As in the case of chess, bets are seldom made upon the game of Draughts; it cannot therefore, be deemed, in any measure, conducive to gambling, which we most earnestly entreat our young readers, on all possible occasions, to avoid, as they value their present comfort and future welfare. (Clarke, 139)

While this game is referred to as both draughts and checkers in The Boy's Own Book, it is more often called draughts. If possible, please refer to it as such in the village.

Rules for Playing

(19th century instructions precede modern instructions)

In playing Draughts, the table must be placed with an upper white corner toward the right hand…. The game is played by two persons, each of whom takes a set of twelve men of different colors, generally white and black, but they may be any colors, according to the fancy. One player, of course, takes all the men of one color and the other all those of the other color. The black pieces are to be placed on the first twelve white squares, and the white on the last twelve white squares, or viceversa.

When the pieces are thus placed, each player alternately moves one of his men forward angularly to the next white square; and when moved to a square adjoining to an enemy, and another square next angularly behind the man so moved is unoccupied at that time, or afterward becomes so, then the man so place or left unguarded must be captured by the enemy, whose man leaps over to the vacant square, and the prisoner is taken off the board. The same practise is immediately to be repeated in case the man effecting a capture thereby gets situated angularly fronting an enemy and is unguarded behind. When any man gets onward to the last row opposite to that from whence his color started, then he becomes a king, and is crowned by his adversary placing another man, previously taken prisoner, upon him; he may then move and take either backward of forward….

When all the men, on one side, are taken, or so hemmed in by the opposite color that they cannot move, the person who has played them is beaten. If, at the latter end of the game, one, two, or three, more or less of each color be left on the board, and neither can prevail on the other to risk, or if one who is weaker than, or has not the move of the other, be determined to go to and fro in safe squares, where he can never be taken, the game is called drawn, and given up, neither party winning…. (Clarke 140; 142)

Two people play this game. A player has 12 draughts that are of one color. The opponent has a 12 of another color. Most often the colors are black and white. The board is set so that the players place their draughts on the white squares with all of their pieces on the three lines closest to them. This should leave eight white squares in the middle open. Players may only move their men onto unoccupied white spaces. Draughts cannot be placed on black spaces. Players take turn moving their draughts to adjacent white spaces. Players must only move their draughts toward their opponent's side of the board. The object is to capture the opponent's men while escaping capture of one's own men. A draught may be captured if the opponent can leap diagonally over the draught to an unoccupied space behind the draught. If caught the piece is taken off the board and held by the captor. If a player moves his piece to the opposite side of the board, his piece becomes a king. His opponent must place one of his captured draughts on top of the king. This piece can now move forward and backward. The winner is the person who captures all of his opponent's draughts. In some cases, players are able to maneuver their pieces so that it is impossible to capture either player. At this point both players must call a draw and neither person wins.

Laws of Draughts

The following are a set of laws for the game, which have been sanctioned by the first players of Draughts in the kingdom.

  • Each player takes the first move alternately, whether the last game be won or drawn.
  • Any action which prevents the adversary from having a full view of the men is not allowed.
  • The player who touches a man must play him.
  • In case of standing a huff, which means omitting to take a man when an opportunity, for so doing, occurred, the other party may either take the man, or insist upon his man, which has been so omitted by his adversary being taken.
  • If either party, when it is his turn to move, hesitate above three minutes, the other may call upon him to play; and if after that, he delay above five minutes longer, then he loses the game.
  • In the losing game, the player can insist upon his adversary taking all the men, in case opportunities should present themselves for their being so taken.
  • Persons not playing are not to advise, or in any manner interfere with the game of either party.
  • To prevent unnecessary delay, if one color have no pieces but two kings on the board, and the other no piece but one king, the latter can call upon the former to win the games in twenty moves: if he do not finish it within the number of move, the game is to be relinquished as drawn.
  • If there be three kings to two on the board, the subsequent moves are not to exceed forty. (Clarke, 142-3
  • Regardless of who won the last game, take turns going first.
  • Both players should have a full view of the game at all times.
  • If a player touches a piece, he must move it.
  • If a player has the opportunity to jump his opponent, he must do so, or his opponent may take the piece that was supposed to jump.
  • If a player has gone three minutes without a move, his opponent can tell him to make a move. If after another five minutes the player has still not moved he loses the game.
  • If a player is losing, he can insist that all of his pieces must be removed before the game is over.
  • Spectators cannot interfere with the game in any way.
  • If one person has only two kings on the board, and his opponent has only one, the person with one king can insist that, if the game is not won within twenty moves, it should be called a draw.
  • If one person has only three kings on the board and the other has only two, the game must be won in forty moves, or the game is called a draw.

Humming Tops

19th century instructions precede modern instructions)

Humming-tops, of various sizes are to be bought at the toy-shops; very little art is necessary to use them. After the string is wound about the up-right piece, one end of it is taken in one hand, and the handle of the fork-piece in the other; the string is then to be pulled off with force, and the top is set up. (Clarke, 13)

Our tops are handmade. Take a long piece of string and wrap it around the largest groove in the top. Hold the top with one hand and the end of the string with the other. With the top near the ground, pull vigorously on the string and, at the same time; let go of the top. The top should fall to the ground spinning. (Note: there are other games with tops in The Boy's Own Book but they are somewhat violent, so you are not allowed to play them.)

Cornhusk Dolls


How to Make Cornhusk Dolls
Dampen the cornhusks, but do not get them too wet or they will shrink. Stack several cornhusks and fold them in half. Tie thread around the husks about one inch below the fold to form the head. Tightly roll one small husk and tie the ends to prevent it from unrolling. Center the husk directly under the neck so the ends stick out on either side of the body to form the arms. Tie thread under the arms to form the torso. For a girl doll trim the bottom of the husks to make a skirt. For a boy doll, divide the husks below the waist in half and tie each to form pants. To embellish the doll you can add hair and accessories out of corn silks or more husks. (Agrifair corn husk handout, 2000)

Soap Bubbles

How to Blow Soap Bubbles
(19th century instructions precede modern instructions)

This simple amusement gives great delight to children, who love dearly to watch the splendid rainbow colours of the bubbles as they rise. A bowl of suds, and a piece of pipe-stem, or straw, or quill, is all that is necessary. Some think that the bubbles are much larger if the quill or straw, be soaked a little at the end which you apply the suds, and split into four, about the length of your nail. If you cannot blow the bubble to such a size as you wish, do not try to increase it by taking in more suds: for the moment it touches the water, it will burst. When the bubble is formed, shake the pipe, and it will rise and float in the air, looking like a piece of the rainbow. (Child, 67)

Clean a quill or pipe stem, and soak the end that you put in the suds until it becomes soft. Using your fingernails, split the ends in fourths about 1/8th of an inch. Place the end of the quill in the soapy water and gently swirl it around. Put the dry end in your mouth and gently blow. When you have a bubble, shake the quill to release the bubble.


(19th century instructions precede then modern instructions)

An amusing scene can be produced by requesting a person to stand with his back close against the wall, and, when in this position, placing a piece of money on the ground, a short distance before him, and offering it to him if he can pick it up without moving his heels from the wall. This, he will find to be impossible, as on stooping forward, a part of the body goes back beyond the heels, in this case, the wall will, of course, prevent. (Clarke, 71)

Ask a friend to stand with his back against the wall, then place a small object, like a rock or thimble, approximately three inches from his toes. Ask him to pick up the object while keeping his heels and knees against the wall. He will be unable to do this because the wall will prevent him from moving his rear end back beyond his heels to keep his balance. This trick is named for King Tantalus who, in Geek mythology, was sent to Hades and punished by being placed chin-deep in water with a basket of fruit above his head. When he bent to take a drink, the water receded and when he reached for fruit, it was moved out of reach. The word tantalize comes from his name as well.

Take two pieces of thread, one foot in length each; roll one of them round like a small pea, which put between your left fore-finger and thumb. Now, hold the other out at length between the fore-finger and thumb of each hand, then let someone cut the same asunder in the middle; when that is done, put the tops of your two thumbs together, so that you may, with less suspicion, receive the thread which you hold in your right hand into your left, without opening your left finger and thumb. Then holding these two pieces as you did before, let them be cut asunder in the middle also, and conveyed again as before, until they are very short; then roll all the ends together, and keep that ball of thread before the other in the left hand…. With the two thumbs and fore-fingers together, rub (the cut string), and at length draw out that thread which has been all this time between your fore-finger and thumb. (Clarke, 168)

Before your guests arrive, cut two pieces of thread, each one foot long. Roll one of the pieces into a small ball, being careful not to knot the string, and place it between your left index finger and your thumb. Once you have an audience, hold the other piece of thread taunt between your index finger and thumb of each hand. Have a guest cut the thread in the middle. Then bring your fingers together, taking care to hold onto the uncut piece, and take hold of the cut ends. Pull both pieces of the cut string taunt and have the guest cut in the middle of the threads again. Continue this process of cutting until you have very small pieces. Then rub all the threads between your thumbs and index fingers, taking care not to drop any pieces. After a length of time, pull the uncut thread from between your thumbs and index fingers, while concealing the cut pieces as you did the uncut piece earlier.


There are gambling games to be played with dice, but because gambling is illegal in 1836; no youth should be playing gambling games. Dice are often used in board games as well.

The Dice Guessed Unseen
(19th century instructions precede modern instructions)

A pair of dice being thrown, to find the number of points on each die without seeing them: -- Tell the person, who cast the dice to double the number of points upon one of them, and add 5 to it; then, to multiply the sum produced by 5, add to the product the number of points upon the other die. This being done, desire him to tell you the amount, and having thrown out 25, the remainder will be a number consisting of two figures, the first of which, to the left, is the number of points on the first die, and the second figure to the right, the number on the other. (Clarke, 105)

Ask a guest to throw the dice, but do not look at them yourself. Tell the person who threw the dice to double the number of spots on the die to her left and add five to the product, then multiply the new sum by five. Instruct the person to add the number of spots on the other die (the one to the right) to the new product. Ask the person to tell you the final number with which she arrived. You must subtract 25 from the number she gave you, and you will come up with a two digit number. The number to the left is the same as the number of spots on the left die, and the number to the right corresponds with the number on the right die.


(19th century introduction precedes the modern introduction)

Whatever may be the objections, and whether they be well founded or not, against card-playing among youth, … it must be admitted, by every liberal mind, that for the mere purpose of performing a few feats of dexterity, to while away a winter evening, and relax the mind, for a time, from scholastic studies, the introduction of a pack of cards is unexceptionable.

Cards have been, for many centuries, in use, having, as it is generally believed, been invented about the year 1390, to amuse Charles the Sixth, king of France, of whose wisdom, it must be confessed, historians do not speak very highly…. (Clarke, 195)

As mentioned earlier, gambling is illegal in 1836, and many people felt that it was both criminally and morally wrong to play card games. While it was not illegal to have cards, it was illegal to buy or sell them in Indiana. Most Hoosiers purchased their cards in Cincinnati. I have not yet found 19th century rules to card games, but the following are amusements you can play with cards.

Differences between 19th Century Cards and Modern Cards

1. Some cards had morals printed on them to make them more suitable for children and ladies to play.

2. The jack of each suit is called a knave.

3. Solitaire was not a card game; it was a board game, similar to checkers, played by one person.

4. You would know about Whist and Poker, but the rules are not the same as the modern ones.

Tricks with Cards
Take twenty-one cards, and lay them down in three rows, with their faces upward; (i.e.) when you have laid out three, begin again at the left hand, and lay one card upon the first, and so on to the right hand; then begin on the left hand again, and so go on until you have laid out the twenty-one cards in three heaps, at the same time requesting any one to think of a card. When you have laid them out, ask him which heap the card is in: then lay the heap in the middle between the other two. This done, lay them out again in three heaps as before and again request him to notice where his noted card goes, and put that heap in the middle, as before. Then taking up the cards with their backs toward you, take off the uppermost card, and reckon it one; take off another, which reckon two; and thus proceed till you have come to the eleventh, which will invariably prove to be the card thought of. You must never lay out your cards less than three times, but as often above that number as you please. This trick may be done without your seeing the cards at all, if you handle and count them carefully…. (Clarke, 196-7)

Take twenty-one cards from a deck and lay them out, face up, in three columns of seven cards a piece. They should be laid out so that you put down three cards from left to right then return to the left hand column and begin again. When all cards are displayed, ask a guest to think of one the cards displayed and tell you in which column it is located. Take the column indicated and put it in the middle column if it is not already there. Gather the cards from left to right and repeat these steps two more times. After you have laid the cards out three times and have gathered them up so that the column of the indicated card is in the middle of the pack, turn the cards over one at a time until you reach the eleventh card. This will always be the card chosen. With practice you can do this trick blindfolded.

This is one of the most simple ways, but by no means the less excellent, of ascertaining what card a person chooses. When you are playing with the pack, drop out the diamond, from the ace to the ten, and contrive, without being perceived to get all the other cards with their heads in the same direction; then request a person to choose a card; do not force one, but let him choose whichever he pleases: while he has it in his hand, and is looking at it, carelessly turn the pack in your hand, so that the position of the cards may be reversed; then bid him put the card he has chosen into the centre of the pack; shuffle and cut them, and you may certainly know the card chosen by its head being upside down, or in a different direction form the rest of the pack. (Clarke, 201)

Before you start the trick, remove the diamonds form the ace to the ten, and arrange all the rest of the cards so the heads are going the same direction. Ask a guest to choose any card in the pile, and while he is looking at his card, turn the deck around. Ask him to return the card anywhere in the deck. Cut and shuffle the cards, making sure you are keeping the cards going in the same direction. After they are mixed to your guest's satisfaction, look through the cards until you find one heading in the opposite direction. You know that is the card he chose.

Take four kings, and place between the third and fourth any two common cards whatever, which must be neatly concealed; then show the four king, and place the six cards on the bottom of the pack; take one of the king, and lay it on the top, and put one of the common cards into the pack nearly about the middle; do the same with the other, then show that there is only king at the bottom; desire anyone to cut the pack, and as three of the kings were left at the bottom, the four will be found together in the middle of the pack. (Clarke, 202)

Take four kings and place between the third and fourth king two other cards. Hide these cards behind a king, while you show the kings to the audience. Place the six cards on the bottom of the pile. Take the bottom card, a king, and put it on the top of the pile. Take the new bottom card, a common one, and place it somewhere in the middle of the deck. Repeat this step with the other common card. Remind the audience that the kings are now moved throughout the deck, but you can reunite them. Cut the cards once and tap the cards. The four kings are now together in the middle of the deck. This is accomplished because you have actually only moved one king from the bottom of the pile to the top. When you cut them, the bottom three kings are placed on top of the king that was formally on the top of the pile.

The prettiest way of making these is to put two cards together touch at the top, and spread at the bottom like a tent; place four of these close to each other; upon the top of all of them lay a couple of cards flat to form a new floor; on the floor place three more little tents; then another floor of cards laid flat; then put two little tents; then another floor, then one tent. Here you must stop; for a new floor will not rest on one point. If you can have a whole table to yourself, you can make a fence all around it, by making cards stand in and out, resting against each other, like a Virginia fence; other little tents standing about may represent barns, summerhouses &c. And if you have any little wooden dogs, cows, milk-maids, &c. you can make it look quite like a little farmhouse. (Child, 73)

This amusement can be left to your imagination and creativity. One of the easiest ways to make card houses is as described above. Take two cards and lean them together so that they touch on top, but are spread apart on the bottom. They should look like a tent. Once you have a desired number of tents for your first floor, lie cards flat across the tops of the tents, overlapping them slightly, then begin again with new tents on the next floor. If you are playing with a friend, you may try to see who can build the largest house before it falls. Remember that Alice in Wonderland has not been written in 1836, so please do not make references to her adventures with cards.

Games for Babies

Of course you are all too old to play these games with each other, but if your character has little brothers or sisters (like Edward Curtis), or if you see a visitor with a little one, you may refer to or play these games. Because these games are very common, I will only reprint the 19th century text without modern instructions. Please note that the rhymes and hand motions are slightly different than what most people are familiar with today.

This is the most common of all plays for infants. Touch the thumb, saying, "This little pig went to market;" touch the fore-finger saying, "This little pig staid at home;" to the middle finger, "This little pig had roast meat;" to the fourth finger, "This little pig had none; to the little finger, "This little pig cries squeak! squeak!"

Sometimes they say the following words: "This little pig say, I want wheat;" "This little pig says, where will you get it?" "This little pigs, in father's barn; "This little pigs says, I can't get over the door-sill;" "This little pig cries, squeak! squeak!" (Child, 72)

A very little girl can amuse her baby-brother or sister by this play. It consists merely in hiding one's head for a moment, and then popping it out, singing. "Bo, peep!" (Child, 72)

This is a common diversion for infants all the world over. Clap the hands together, saying, "Pat a cake, pat a cake, baker's man; that I will, master, as fast as I can;" then rub the hands together, saying, "Roll it, and roll it;" then peck the palm of the left hand with the fore-finger of the right, saying "Prick it, and prick it;" then throw up both hands, saying. "Toss it in the oven and bake it."

Pat a cake, pat a cake, baker's man!
Bake me a cake as fast as you can:
Roll it, and prick it, and mark it with T,
Toss it in the oven for Thomas and me. (Child, 66)


1. Agrifair Corn Husk Doll Handout. 2000.
2. Child, L. Maria. The Girl's Own Book. Applewood Books; Bedford, MA. 1992; original publication; Clark Austin & Co., New York; 1834.
3. Clarke, William. The Boy's Own Book. Applewood Books; Bedford, MA. 1996; original publication; Munroe & Francis, Boston; and Charles S. Francis, New York; 1829.
4. Hughes, Julie. "Virginia Reel." 2000.
5. Matteis, Dick and Geneva Matteis. "Virginia Reel." 2000
6. Provenzo, Asterie Baker and Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. Favorite Games and Pastimes. Dover Pub, Inc.,
New York; 1981.