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.)

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 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Outdoor Games - Fives (Handball) in 1787

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

A number of accounts suggest that versions of the game were played in different places around the world more than 3,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians most likely had some different ball games. Drawings found at Saqqara, the necropolis for their ancient capital of Memphis, vividly illustrate people playing what was probably a game of handball. It is also believed that the person behind the popularity among Greek colonies was Alexander the Great. The popularity of the game went on to spread in other countries of the Roman Empire. In ancient Rome, it was women who reportedly played a version of handball called “expulsim ludere, and they also used special courts for it. On the other hand, the Roman army practiced a ball game known as “Hapastum, that resembles rugby. Later on, “Hapastrum” was transformed into a particular type of training for the soldiers. The game persisted and evolved throughout the middle ages.

The medieval game of tennis closely resembles modern handball games. While peasants played in open fields, royals built enclosed courts for their private tennis matches. Tennis balls were originally cloth pieces wound tightly into a sphere and stitched together. Players passed the ball to each other by hitting it with open palms. In France, was called “Jeux de Paume” (“palm play”). The balls used in medieval days were often made of pieces of clothes stitched together. In the later part of this era, some players also started to use gloves for better hitting of the ball, and some also used items that well resemble early tennis rackets. In medieval times, reportedly, the game of handball was even played among the Inuit people of Greenland.

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.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Children's Outdoor Games - Hop-Scotch in 1787

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

Reportedly an ancient form of hopscotch was played by young Romans, but the 1st recorded references to the game in the English-speaking world date to the late 17C, usually under the name "scotch-hop" or "scotch-hopper(s)." A manuscript Book of Games compiled between 1635 and 1672 by Francis Willughby refers to 'Scotch Hopper‥. They play with a piece of tile or a little flat piece of lead, upon a boarded floor, or any area divided into oblong figures like boards.' In Poor Robin's Almanack for 1677, the game is referred to as "Scotch-hoppers," The entry states, "The time when schoolboys should play at Scotch-hoppers." The 1707 edition of Poor Robin's Almanack includes the following, "Lawyers and Physicians have little to do this month, so they may (if they will) play at Scotch-hoppers." In 1828, Webster's An American Dictionary of the English language also referred to the game as 'Scotch-hopper' ... 'a play in which boys hop over scotches and lines in the ground.' Hopscotch is said to have begun in ancient England during the early Roman Empire. The original hopscotch courts were over 100 feet long and used for military training exercises. Roman foot-soldiers ran the course in full armor and field packs to improve their footwork.

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.

Reportedly Roman children drew their own smaller courts in imitation of the soldiers, added a scoring system and "Hopscotch" spread throughout Europe. In England, the word "London" was often written at the top of hopscotch courts to make the court reminiscent of the Great North Road, a 400 mile Roman road from Glasgow to London frequently used by the Roman military.
  +-------+-------+      +---------------+
  |       |       |      |       6       |
  |   3   |   4   |      +---------------+
  |       |       |      |       5       |
  +-------+-------+      +---------------+
  |       |       |      |       4       |
  |   2   |   5   |      +---------------+
  |       |       |      |       3       |
  +-------+-------+      +---------------+
  |       |       |      |       2       |
  |   1   |   6   |      +---------------+
  |       |       |      |       1       |
  +-------+-------+      +---------------+
       English                English
The game is called "Marelles" in France, "Templehupfen" in Germany, "Hinkelbaan" in the Netherlands, "Ekaria Dukaria" in India, "Pico" in Vietnam and "Rayuela" in Argentina. The English term "Hopscotch" comes from "hop" meaning "to jump" and "escocher", an Old French word meaning "to cut."
  +-----------------+    +---------------+
  |                 |    |  H E A V E N  |
  |     H O M E     |    +---------------+
  |                 |    |       |       |
  +---+---------+---+    |   8   |   9   |
      |         |        |       |       |
      | NEUTRAL |        +---+-------+---+
      |         |            |       |
      |_________|            |   7   |
     /\         /\           |       |
    /  \   6   /  \      +---+-------+---+
   / 5  \_____/ 8  \     |       |       |
   \    /     \    /     |   5   |   6   |
    \  /   7   \  /      |       |       |
     \/_________\/       +---+-------+---+
      |         |            |       |
      | NEUTRAL |            |   4   |
      |         |            |       |
      |_________|        +---+-------+---+
     /\         /\       |       |       |
    /  \   2   /  \      |   2   |   3   |
   / 1  \_____/ 4  \     |       |       |
   \    /     \    /     +---+-------+---+
    \  /   3   \  /          |       |
     \/_________\/           |   1   |
                             |       |
                             +-------+ 
      Monte Carlo            American
Each player then chooses a marker, usually a stone. Play begins with the first player tossing his stone into the first space. If the stone lands completely within the designated square, the player proceeds to hop through the course. A player can only have one foot in any given square, so single squares must be balanced and double squares (side by side) are straddled. While hopping, the player should alternate the foot he lands on for each square. Any space not marked with a number, i.e. London, Home, etc., are considered rest squares and can be landed in any fashion.  When the player reaches the top of the court, he then turns around and comes back, collecting his marker along the way. Play then continues with the player tossing his marker into the second square and so on.   If a player fails to toss his marker into the correct square or if it touches a line the players turn ends. The same is true if the player steps on a line, misses a square, or loses his balance and falls. The first player to complete the course for each numbered square wins.

Information from Dagonell's Medieval Games & from Medieval Games and Recreation.

See also: 
Botermans, Jack (trans.) The World of Games: Their Origin and History, How to Play Them and How to Make Them (NY; Facts on File; 1989; 240 pgs, ill.)
DeLuca, Jeff (SCA: Salamallah the Corpulent) Medieval Games (Raymond's Quiet Press; 3rd ed. 1995
Gomme, Alice Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland (London; Thames and Hudson; 1894; 2 vol.
Grunfeld, Frederic V. (ed) Games of the World: How to Make Them, How to Play Them, How They Came to be (NY; Holt, Rinehart & Winston; 1975; 280 pgs, ill.)
Maguire, Jack Hopscotch, Hangman, Hot Potato, & Ha-ha-ha (Simon & Schuster; 1992; 304 pgs
Reeves, Compton Pleasures and Pastimes of Medieval England (England; Alan Sutton Pub.; 1995; 228 pgs)
Sterling Publishing Family Fun & Games (NY; Sterling Pub.; 1994; 800 pgs)

Friday, March 1, 2019

Outdoor Game mostly for Adults - Stool Ball in 1787

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

Reportedly it was the first recorded bat-and-ball-type game known to have been played in North America (at Plymouth in 1621 at Christmastime much to the chagrin of Governor Bradford). In this game, the pitcher tries to hit a stool or stump with the ball, while the batter tries to defend the target using bare hands or a bat.When they began sailing across the 17C Atlantic to the New World, British American colonials 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.

The game of Stool Ball is referred to by name as early as 1450. Nearly all early references describe it as a game played during Easter celebrations, typically as a courtship pastime rather than a competitive game. In the 15C there were complaints of the game being played in churchyards after Sunday service.  The game consists of placing milking stools on the ground and defending them with a hand. Some stools were also suspended from trees.

Down in a vale on a summer's day
All the lads and lasses met to be merry,
A match for kisses at stool-ball to play, 
And for cakes, and ale, and cider and perry.
Song from 1694

The game's associations with romance remained strong into the modern period. Written by William Shakespeare and playwright John Fletcher, the comedy, The Two Noble Kinsmen used the phrase "playing stool ball" as a euphemism for sexual behavior.  Stool Ball makes an appearance in the dictionary of Samuel Johnson, where it is defined as a game played by driving a ball from stool to stool.  Stool Ball seems to have been one of the earliest sports in which women participated.

In this game, the pitcher tries to hit a stool or stump with the ball, while the batter tries to defend the target using bare hands or a bat. Stool ball was played by women and men together as a sort of springtime ritual, played at Easter time. In many stool ball games, tansy-cakes were the traditional winners' prize. Tansy-cakes were a traditional Easter time food. It is difficult to find the rules of stool ball. In some versions of the game, there was no bat, and bare hands were used instead. Other versions had no base running, just a single stool or stump base that the batter was expected to defend. However, bats and running the bases were included in some versions, too.

By the 19C, some rules had been established in England.  Like cricket it had 11 players-a-side who played in much the same positions. The wickets were a square board of wood on top of a wooden post or stake. The batter defended the board with a bat shaped rather like an elongated table tennis bat and made of willow. The wickets were 16 yards apart. The bowler could only bowl underarm to try to hit the wicket. The batsman had to hit the ball and score runs by running between wickets.