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Children's Games

Early toys and games were clearly intended for either boys or girls.  Boys toys were generally more active, girls more sedentary.  Boys were being prepared for the workplace, girls for the home.

Horace J. Gardner, b.1895.

Happy Birthday to You! : Complete Party Programs for Every Age. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, [1939].

Lina Beard.

New Ideas for Work and Play: What a Girl Can Make and Do.  New York: Scribner's, 1902.

  The book shown here by Lina Beard is unusual in its depiction of a young girl doing woodworking.

Angela M. Keyes.

When Mother Lets Us Play.  New York: Dodd Mead, 1926.

Ebenezer Landells, 1808-1860.

The Boy's own Toy-maker.  Boston: Shepard, Clark, and Brown, 1859.

F. Ad. Richter & Co.

Uncle Jack's Present: How a Jolly Bachelor Delighted a Houseful of Nieces and Nephews with Dr. Richter's Anchor Blocks.  New York: The Company, 1911.

Table Games

Exposition universelle internationale de 1900 (Paris, France).

Musée rétrospectif de la classe 100: jeux à l'exposition universelle internationale de 1900, à Paris: rapport présenté par M. Henry d'Allemagne. [Saint Cloud: Imprimerie Belin Frères, 1900].

Produced for the International Exposition of 1900, this guide includes a history of toys and gaming. This illustration shows the games of dice, cards and backgammon.

William Robert Barker.

The World's Checker Book: Comprising Three Hundred and Fifty-five Original Games, and Twenty-four Original Positions. Boston: H.A. Young and Company, 1879.

John William Keller, 1856-1919.

The Game of Draw Poker.  New York: Frederick A. Stokes, [1887].

Reproduction set of French playing cards from the sixteenth century.

James Beaufort, active 1775-1796.

Hoyle's Games Improved: Being Practical Treatises on the Following Fashionable Games, viz. Whist, Quadrille, Piquet, Back-gammon, Chess, Billiards and Tennis with the Established Rules of Each Game. London: Printed for Osborne and Griffin; and H. Mozley, 1788.

Edmond Hoyle (1672 - 1769) is a writer best known for his works on the rules and play of card games. His books became the standard for gaming rules and have been widely reprinted and updated.

Board Games

Game of Star Authors.  New York:  McLoughlin Bros., [ca. 1885].

This is a card game played in the same manner as the game of “Fish,” but using portraits of well-known authors.

Julie Chen.

Personal Paradigms: a Game of Human Experience. Berkeley, Calif.: Flying Fish Press, 2003.

This is an artist’s book in the form of a game.  The game focuses on the player’s own life experience and perceptions at the moment of play.  The results of the game are recorded in the included ledger book and become part of the art object.

Mark Twain’s Memory-Builder.  Hartford, Conn., 1891.

In 1885, Mark Twain patented his Memory-Builder, a game board aimed at developing memory for dates and facts. The instructions, which were written by Twain, were glued on the back of the game board.  The game came supplied with a package of straight pins of different colors.  Several models were test marketed in 1891 but failed to capture the public's fancy, possibly because Twain's instructions were too complicated. According to one critic, "The game looked like a cross between an income tax form and a table of logarithms.”

The Mansion of Happiness.  Salem, Mass.: W. and S. B. Ives, 1843.

The Mansion of Happiness was one of the earliest children's board games published in America.    The game was based on the Puritan world view that Christian virtue and deeds were assurances of happiness and success in life.  Even the game pieces were influenced by the Puritan view.   A spinner or a top was used rather than dice, which were then associated with Satan and gambling.

Geographical Recreation, or a Voyage Round the Habitable Globe.  London: John Harris at the Juvenile Library, 1809.

According to the booklet that accompanied the game, it is “designed to familiarize youth with the names and relative situations of places, together with the manners, customs and dresses of the different nations in the habitable globe.” Note also that the central image was a “European” figure with figures of other ethnicities looking up from subservient postures.

Round the World with Nellie Bly.  Springfield, Mass.: Milton Bradley Co., [ca. 1890].

Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, known as Nellie Bly, was a pioneering woman investigative journalist. She gained world fame in 1890 when she beat Jules Verne's fictional character Phileas Fogg's record for traveling around the world in 80 days by more than a week. Her popularity led to her image being used in this game, as well as songs and advertisements.

English Park: An Assembly Game.  England, [ca. 1860].

This set of paper dolls allows the child to recreate an English country home and garden.

The Bunny: Picture Blocks.  New York: Selchow and Righter, 1893.

Selchow and Righter was a nineteenth century game manufacturer best known for developing the games Parcheesi and Scrabble.  The blocks show a variety of sports and games.

Wallis' Picturesque Round Game of the Produce and Manufactures of the Countries of England and Wales.  London: Edward Wallis, 1840.

The game not only taught the young player the details of England and its countryside, but also highlighted British industrial and civic achievements in the guise of a race to London.


The Pocket Chess-Board, Being a Chess and Checker-Board.  New York: D. Appleton and Co., [ca. 1870s].

Miron Hazeltine, 1824-1907.

Beadle's Dime Chess Instructor.  New York: Beadle and Company, 1860.

Souvenir magnetic chess set from The World Chess Championship Match in 1972.

The 1972 World Chess Championship was a match between challenger Bobby Fischer of the United States and defending champion Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union. The match took place in Reykjavík, Iceland and has been dubbed the “Match of the Century.” Fischer became the first native-born American to be the official World Champion.

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