Sunday, March 17, 2019

Skittles, 9 Pins & 10 Pin Bowling in Early America - A History

Ten Pin bowling is the North American version of Skittles and is believed to be based upon the Skittles game from Holland.  It was probably the Dutch who took their version of skittles to the British North American colonies in the 17C, although another theory believes it is of English origin. Either way, the game fell into disrepute, as it tended to attract crowds of undesirables and to be played by gamblers, not welcomed by the Puritans. Consequently, a law was introduced to ban the game but since the law only mentioned "nine pin bowling", Americans simply added another skittle and called the game ten-pin bowling to avoid penalty.

Nine-pins was the most popular form of bowling in much of the United States from colonial times until the 1830s, when several cities in the United States banned nine-pin bowling out of moral panic over the supposed destruction of the work ethic, gambling, and organized crime. Standardized rules and organization of nine-pins were developed by the American Bowling Congress in 1895. Tenpin bowling is said to have been invented in order to meet the letter of these laws, even with evidence of outdoor bowling games in 1810 England being bowled with ten pins set in an equilateral triangle as is done today in tenpin bowling. Today, nine-pins has disappeared from all of the United States except Texas, where, by 1837, ninepin alleys were numerous enough that rather than a ban, the 1st Congress of the Republic of Texas chose to subject them to an annual tax of $150, and all forms of bowling have remained legal and subject to taxation in Texas ever since. Whereas tenpin alleys were usually found associated with taverns in the 19C & frequented exclusively by men, ninepin alleys were often built by clubs patronized by families.

Something that makes nine-pin bowling different from ten-pin bowling is that the bowlers do not have to bowl in the same order in each frame. Each team can designate a bowler to “Captain” each game. This Captain has complete discretion in determining the bowling order in each frame. These decisions are made on-the-fly: If the remaining pins are on the left side, and there is a remaining bowler who is better than the rest on left side pins, the Captain will send that bowler. This gives the Captain the flexibility to help maximize the team’s score. However, each bowler must roll two balls in each frame.

The game of skittles & its variations are also known as Nine Pins, Kegelen, Dutch Pins, 4 Corners, Rolly Polly, Closh, Loggats, Kayles, Quilles, Kubb, Aunt Sally, & 10 Pin Bowling. Most forms of Skittles feature projectiles being propelled from one end of an alley in an effort to knock down nine pins stood in a square at the other end. That is about all that many of the games do have in common. Over the years, Skittles developed regional variations in skittle size and shape, skittle alley length, use of a kingpin, size and shape of the balls/cheeses and the rules began to vary quite radically through time & place.
Jacob Duck (1600–1667) and Adam Willaerts (1577–1664) The Game of Skittles

Artifacts found in tombs dating circa 5,000 B.C. show that one of their pastimes was to play a type of skittles with round stones. Sculptured vases & ancient plaques show the game being played some 4,000 years ago, & archaeologists have uncovered biased stone bowls from 5,000 B.C. which indicate our ancestors enjoyed the game of bowling more than 7,000 years ago.
Dirck van Delen (Dutch painter, 1604-1671) Skittles in a Garden

Skittles or Nine Pins has long been played in British and European Taverns & Inns. In general, players take turns to throw wooden balls down a formal or imaginary lane at the end of which are several wooden skittles in an attempt to knock them all over.
Jan Steen (Dutch artist, 1626-1679) Peasants Playing Skittles on a Town's Open Public Space

The game may have come to Britain from Germany where, in the 3rd or 4th century, monks played a game with a kegel which was a club carried for self defense.  In the game, the kegel represented a sin or temptation and the monks would throw stones at it until they knocked it over.  The modern German term for skittles is Kegelen.
Pieter Angellis British , 1685-1734 A Game of Skittles 1727 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Skittles has been one of the most popular sports in England since at least medieval times. Skittles refers to a variety of games in England.  In the 1700s, the game of Closh or Cloish frequently appears in records and later the term Loggats turns up.
zskittles Pieter de Hooch 1629-a 1684 A Game of Skittles

There are two 14th century manuscripts which show a game called club Kayles (from the French "quilles" or skittles) and which depict a skittles game in which one skittle is bigger, differently shaped, and in most cases positioned so as to be the most difficult to knock over.  The throwers, in the illustrations, are about to launch a long club-like object at the skittles underarm.  The large skittle is presumably a king pin.
Jan Steen (Dutch artist, 1626-1679)  A Game of Skittles, c. 1650

Some Skittles cousins do not use a ball at all.  "Aunt Sally" and various games played on a court in Northern Europe, still use a baton shaped stick to chuck at the doll and many modern skittles games throw a object called a "cheese" instead of a ball.  A cheese is any "lump" which is used to throw at the skittles and shapes can vary from barrel shaped to, well, cheese shaped, really.
 Jan Steen (Dutch artist, 1626-1679) Skittles Outside the Local Tavern

Aunt Sally is played by throwing timber batons at a wooden skittle (known as a doll or dolly) on top of a post. Some have suggested that Aunt Sally goes back at least as far as the 17C. However, the earliest references to the term "Aunt Sally" only go back to the mid 1800s.
The Play of Skittles by Francis Hayman c. 1735 - 1745

The 2 14th century manuscripts show a game called club kayles (from the French "quilles" or skittles) which depict a skittles game in which one skittle is bigger, differently shaped, and in most cases positioned so as to be the most difficult to knock over.  The throwers, in the pictures, are about to launch a long club-like object at the skittles underarm.  Many skittles varieties of today still feature this extra large kingpin". Aunt Sally may be a development of skittles whereby this "Kingpin" became the sole interest of the game and the other skittles were dispensed with.
Edmund Bristow (1787–1876) A Game of Skittles

Irish Skittles is a unique traditional 5 pin game. The pins are stood on a circle with one in the middle and are aimed at with 4 batons. To score, you must not only knock the pin over but must knock it out of the circle. Similar to Aunt Sally and court skittles games from Northern Europe such as Kubb, short sticks - batons are used as throwing implements.

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.)