Friday, March 15, 2019

Outdoor Games - Base-Ball

1744 A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly with Two Letters from Jack the Giant Killer by John Newbery. 

The evolution of baseball from older bat-and-ball games is difficult to trace with precision. A French manuscript from 1344 contains an illustration of clerics playing a game, possibly la soule, with similarities to baseball. Other old French games such as thèque, la balle au bâton, & la balle empoisonnée also appear to be related.
Baseball evolved from older bat-and-ball games already being played in England by the mid-18C.  When British American colonials began sailing across the 17C Atlantic to the New World, they brought with them memories of games played for centuries in England & on the European continent.  Games brought people together.  Many of these indoor & outdoor games morphed & changed a bit in the colonies.  Some disappeared, but many others remain today in one form or another.
References to games resembling baseball in the United States date back to the 18C. Its most direct ancestors appear to be two English games: rounders (a children’s game brought to New England by the earliest colonists) and cricket. By the time of the American Revolution, variations of such games were being played on schoolyards and college campuses across the country. They became even more popular in newly industrialized cities where men sought work in the mid-19th century.

The evolution of baseball from older bat-and-ball games is difficult to trace with precision. A French manuscript from 1344 contains an illustration of clerics playing a game, possibly la soule, with similarities to baseball. Other old French games such as thèque, la balle au bâton, & la balle empoisonnée also appear to be related.
A game from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, c. 1280, involving tossing a ball, hitting it with a stick and competing with others to catch it

Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game (2005), by David Block, suggests that the game originated in England. Block argues that rounders & early baseball were actually regional variants of each other, & that the game's most direct antecedents are the English games of stool-ball & "tut-ball."

The first recorded game of "Bass-Ball" in Britain took place in 1749 in Surrey, & featured the Prince of Wales as a player. William Bray, an English lawyer, recorded a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey.

The first known American reference to baseball appears in a 1791 Pittsfield, Massachusetts Town Bylaw prohibiting the playing of the game near the town's new meeting house.  As described by German Johann Gutsmuths, "englische Base-ball" involved a contest between two teams, in which "the batter has three attempts to hit the ball while at the home plate." Only one out was required to retire a side.

By the early 1830s, there were reports of a variety of  bat-and-ball games recognizable as early forms of baseball being played around North America. These games often were referred to locally as "town ball", though other names such as "round-ball" & "base-ball" were also used. In a letter from an attendee to Sporting Life magazine—took place in Beachville, Ontario, in 1838. There were many similarities to modern baseball, & some crucial differences: 5 bases (or byes); first bye just 18 feet (5.5 m) from the home bye; batter out if a hit ball was caught after the 1st bounce.

In 1845, Alexander Cartwright, a member of New York City's Knickerbocker Club, produced a code of baseball rules now called the Knickerbocker Rules. The practice, common to bat-and-ball games of the day, of "soaking" or "plugging"—a putout by hitting a runner with a thrown ball—was barred. These rules called for the use of a smaller, harder ball than had been common. Several other rules also brought the Knickerbockers' game close to the modern one, though a ball caught on the first bounce was an out & only underhand pitching was allowed. While there are reports that the New York Knickerbockers played games in 1845, the contest long recognized as the first officially recorded baseball game in U.S. history took place on June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey: the "New York Nine" defeated the Knickerbockers, 23–1, in four innings.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

American Commercial Gardens - Card Games & Wagers

Thomas Rowlandson  (1756–1827) The Gaming Table

The raucous 1790s Spring Gardens, sitting on the waters of Baltimore's harbor, offered intoxicating beverages & "accommodations" for sportsmen. These public pleasure grounds specialized in fishing & also attracted clever gamesters accustomed to nursing pipe and glass with cards flying and dice rattling. It was a place where gentlemen, senses dulled by spirits, could lose their cares and their money with ease.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Outdoor Games for Fields & Gardens - Thread the Needle

1744 Thread the needle A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, intended for the Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly with Two Letters from Jack the Giant Killer by John Newbery.

Tag was a favorite game of the young & the physically fit in Colonial America because no special equipment was needed & almost everyone could participate. There are many different ways to play tag, and some versions have their own names. Some of the favorite variations in Colonial America included squat tag, turn cap, thread the needle, stone poison, and How many miles to Babylon?

Games, such as battledore and shuttlecock (badminton), thread the needle, tag, leapfrog, and hopscotch could be, and often were, played with members of both sexes. Given that the median age of the Revolutionary generation was sixteen, games provided a means through which sexual mores could be tested and learned. Charades, hide-and-seek, and blindman's bluff were popular heterosocial activities, but they usually were given moral intent by popular advice writers.

On June 1786, a newspaper article described a Whit Sunday Fair at Greenwich in London. It was a rough event, bringing together sailors, prostitutes & "runagate apprentices" who are all "drinking & smoaking - dancing & boxing - singing & shrieking - praying & cursing."  Another description is in these lines, "And now the sport begins - Thread my needle - Kiss in the ring - & roll on the hill..."
In "Thread the Needle" games, it looks like participants are the thread and needle making stitches.  The point of the game is to try & do this many times without breaking the chain.

The Thread Follows the Needle
The thread follows the needle,
The thread follows the needle,
In and out the needle goes,
While mother mends the children's clothes.

Game Instructions
1. The participants stand in a line, side by side, while holding hands throughout the entire game.
2. The two players at one end of the line ("A" and "B") hold their joined hands up forming an arch.
3. The participant at the other end of the line ("Z") goes under the arch… and all those in between follow.
4. Then player "B" holds up hands with player "C" forming an arch.
5. Player "Z" again goes under the arch and all of the participants between him and "C" follow under the arch.
6. The game continues like this until everyone is facing in the opposite direction with arms crossed in front.

A second version of this game was popular in Colonial British America & the early nation & includes a Biblical chant. Everyone holds hands & forms a line the two people at the head of the line chant "How many miles to Babylon?" The end two people chant in response "Three score & ten." The conversation continues "Can I get there by candle light?" "Yes, & back again." "Then open the gates with mere ado & let the King & his men pass through. The end couple then raises their hands up in an arch & the game is played the same as the first version.

The 1899 Boston University Journal of Education, Volume 50 reported that in the 19C, The general children's games included:— Tugwar, Buzz, Sack racing, Hide and seek, Croquet, Puss in the corner, Bean bags, Lame lassie, Soap bubbles, Copenhagen, Flag drill, Goose in the garden, Marbles, Jenkins up, Jacks, Stage coach, (‘at and mouse, Menagerie, Blind man's buil'. Jump the shot, Follow the leader. lutton, button, who has Beast, bird, and few], the button, Not 1, sir, Sculptor, Ducks fly, Leap frog, Thread the needle,& The orchestra, Drop the handkerchief, ('at's cradle, Spin the platter, Xavette, 'l‘hrce-leggcd race, Cupid’s coming, Steps ofthe king, Running race, Three deep, Obstacle race, Brother Jonathan, Going to Jerusalem, Hill Dill, l’ruit to sell. 'l‘om Tiddler, I come from Spain, The organ grinder, Gossip, ' Postman, _ Cut the cheese, Prisoner's base, Willy. nilly. wolf. Muffin man, Grocery store, Trades, . Our old grannie doesn't Hop-Scotch. like tea, llunt the squirrel, Fox and geese. King Morocco, l’otato race, The auctioneer, Relay race, Compliments, Wheelbarrow race. Jacob and Rachel."

Saturday, March 9, 2019

American Commericial Gardens - Drinking Games

Garden drinkers might play high jinks. This term for boisterous carryings-on once referred to a popular 17th century drinking game. A group of drinkers would throw dice & whoever came up short would be encouraged to perform some manner of debauchery, such as drinking a large flagon of ale while being held upside down. It was a sure way to get loaded. (The term loaded or “to take one’s load” meant “to drink one’s fill” as far back as 1598.)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Indoor Play & Outdoor Garden Game - Shuttle-Cock

1770-75 William Williams (American Colonial era painter, 1727-1791). Boy with Battledore and Shuttlecock, Possibly of the Crossfield Family.

One popular game played in Early American public and private pleasure gardens was Battledore and Shuttlecock.  Since at least the Middle Ages in England, there had been a children's game known as "battledore and shuttlecock."   Adults could not resist the game.

It probably developed in ancient Greece & Rome, moving from there east to China, Japan, & India, and north to France & England. It is reported that the sport was sometimes called shuttlefeather, although I cannot find reference to this in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Players used a paddle, called a battledore, to keep a cork stuffed with feathers, called a shuttlecock, in the air for as long as possible. The battledore was a small, lightweight racket made of parchment or rows of gut stretched across wooden frames. Battledore was originally the name given to a wooden bat used for beating clothes during washing in England.

Battledore makers used leaves of old and sometimes valuable books to cover their rackets. A 1792 story in The Federal Gazette and Philadelphia Evening Post related that "A page of the Second Decade of Livy was found by a man of letters on the parchment of his battledore, as he was amusing himself in the country. He ran directly to the maker of the battledore; but arrived too late; the man had finished the last page of Livy in compleating a large order for these articles about a week before."
Because the shuttlecock was a feathered projectile, its inherent aerodynamic properties made it fly through the air differently than the more ordinary balls used in most racquet sports. The feathers created higher drag, causing the shuttlecock to decelerate more rapidly than a ball. On the other hand, shuttlecocks had a higher top speed compared to balls in similar racquet sports, so shuttlecocks could be a little tricky to control.  Since shuttlecock flight could usually affected by wind (because of its lightness), the game was sometimes played indoors. It was usually played outdoors during warm weather as a casual recreational activity, often in private & commercial pleasure gardens. By the 16th century, it had become widely popular among children in England. In Europe this racquet sport was known as Jeu de Volant and was popular with the upper classes. The game traveled to the British American colonies with the English settlers.

At the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, documents survive of a 1742 order of battledores & shuttlecocks sent to Maryland from an English merchant. American gentry began to have portraits of their sons painted with their bright red battledores and shuttlecocks, the spelling of which varied across the years.
In 1764, the Boston Gazette and Country Journal carried an advertisement selling imported "Battledores and Shittlecocks." And in 1770, the Boston News-Letter advertised the sale of  "Battledores and Shutlecocks."  The 1782 Royal Gazette in New York City offered "Battledores and Shuttlecocks For the Season," as did the New York Packet and the The Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser in 1790. An 1831 notice in the Baltimore Patriot advertised for sale "Battlecocks and Birds."
1758 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era painter, 1738-1815). Young Thomas Aston Coffin with Battledore and Shuttlecock.

Battledore and shuttlecock was not a competitive sport. Probably the most intriguing aspect of the game was that it was a cooperative sport with the players trying to see how long they could keep the shuttlecock in the air. It did not pit player against player, a rather refreshing concept in the 21st century. The game was usually played by children, families, and young adults during the 18th century.

During the 19th century, American girls were encouraged to play battledore and shuttlecock to maintain good health. In 1828, Republican Star and General Advertiser of  Easton, Maryland, published an article on Exercises Most Conducive to Health in Girls & Young Women. "Nearly the same exercises with the exception of wrestling, cricket, quoits, & those sports properly termed athletic, which are proper for boys, may be recommeded for young girls--trundling a hoop, battledore, trap ball, and every game which can exercise both legs and arms, and at the same time the muscles of the body, should be encouraged."
Battledore & Shuttlecock Portrait of a Boy, c.1758-1760, by John Singleton Copley

Apparently games of battledore & shuttlecock were packaged up and sent as presents to young girls away at boarding school. Writing of his contrary aunt Eleanor, one young man commented in the Farmers Gazette in Barre, Massachusettes, in 1834, "At school it was the same. If you sent her a plumb cake, she wanted a battledore and shuttlecock; and if battledore and shuttlecock had been presented, she was sure to have longed for a plumb cake."
1770-75 William Williams (American Colonial era painter, 1727-1791). Portrait of Master Stephen Crossfield

1787 Shuttlecock A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy, and Pretty Miss Poll” by Isaiah Thomas, Worcester, Massachusetts