50+ old-fashioned games: Take look back at what people played 100 years ago

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Old-fashioned games - Look back at some of the oldest games

Old-fashioned games: Simpler times and simpler amusements

From an article by Lilian Jackson Braun – Detroit Free Press (Michigan) November 3, 1975

Who remembers Tiddledy Winks, Peter Coddle, Shoot the Hat, and Snap? They were pastimes that provided hours of entertainment before the days of radio and TV — even before Monopoly.

“They were uncomplicated,” said Warren Stephens, who collects Victorian games. “Simpler times, simpler amusements.”

“Games were not made commercially until after the Civil War,” he said. “They didn’t believe in children wasting their time. You can date the games by the clothing styles on the boxes. Collectors go for the colorful boxes.”

Many of the cardboard containers are remarkably well-preserved. “Kids took better care of their toys then.”

Antique board game - Letters and Anagrams from Parker Bros

AN EARLY ITEM in Stephens’ collection is a set of Crandall’s building blocks. In 1887, Crandall was manufacturing an interlocking wooden box to hold “the new game of croquet” when his children contracted scarlet fever.

He took some of the wooden components home for his children to play with, and the doctor attending them said: “Would you make a set for my own children?” Stephens said, “Crandall went on to build a toy empire.”

“The old games of Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers are also highly collectible.”

Another choice item in the collection is called The New Game of Tiddledy Winks, with chips made of bone (not plastic) and with a real little woven basket to catch them. “These little baskets sometimes turn up in antique shops,” Stephen said, “and people don’t know what they are.”

Antique games from 1903 (4)

There are early Jack Straws, Old Maid, Buffalo Hunt, Soldiers Five, the Santa Claus card game, Lotto, and the ludicrous adventures of Peter Coddle. “Lotto was the first bingo game. Peter Coddle is a game that could be revived; our kids play it.”

In the Country Auction game, a butter churn goes for $2.50, a turkey gobbler for $2, a plough for $10. In the Auto Game, the players spin a dial (on dice) and move counters along a roadway fraught with catastrophes: punctured tire, broken axle, hot cylinder, collision.

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STEPHENS COLLECTS nothing later than World War II. “Monopoly came after that,” he said, “but it is the most popular game of all time.”

The games sometimes bear their original prices: 8 cents, 17 cents, or an exorbitant 39 vents.

“Often we get one where Mother has sewn the box to repair it. Boxes can be cleaned carefully with wallpaper cleaner or repaired with a little white glue, but never patch them with Scotch tape. You can’t get it off without damaging the box.”

As collectibles, games are still reasonable, compared to such runaway favorites as cast iron toys. “You can get a Victorian game for $5,” the collector said, “and you hardly ever see them over $20.”

Vintage Authors Improved board game from Milton Bradley - Antique


Old-fashioned games: Fortunes in small things (1910)

The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, California) January 08, 1910

“The philosophical maxim, “Nothing is small or insignificant,” is strikingly realized in the history of what seem to be petty inventions.

The man who patented the idea of attaching rubber tips to lead pencils realized over $200,000 by his invention. The miner who first attached a metal rivet at each end of the mouth of the trousers pockets, to resist the strain of heavy bits of ore, made more money than if he had found a gold mine; while he who first devised the small metal plates to protect shoe heels realized $250,000 in a few years.

Antique Fifteen Puzzle - Sliding numbers

The glass bells to hang over gas jets, and thus protect the ceiling from smoke, made a large fortune for their inventor; while the inventor of the roller skate made over $1,000,000. The copper tips to shoes made their inventor a millionaire; and the gimlet screw has piled up a dozen fortunes for its proprietors.

Even toys have made their inventors rich, and fortunes have, been realized from the dolls that close their eyes, dolls that cry, balls with return string and puzzles; in fact, any device that sells in great quantities, however insignificant it may seem, is certain to bring very large returns to its owner.

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It is noticeable, however, that originality is essential to success in all small inventions, especially toys and games.

The great inventions of the country, such as the steam engine, steamship, spinning machines and many others, are continually being perfected, until they now bear little resemblance to the first model; but the public does not seem to care for any improvement in small inventions.

Antique Pigs in the Clover puzzle game from Milton Bradley

Two of the greatest selling toys of the present century were the “Fifteen puzzle” and “Pigs in clover.” They sold by the millions, and were followed by a number of imitations, all very cleverly designed, and some equal in ingenuity to the originals, but they did not sell at all. The public curiosity had evidently exhausted itself and could not be revived.

There is also a grout deal of chance in the success of these little things, and the ephemeral character of their popularity shows that they have no basis of real merit. In a single year, perhaps inside of six months, the craze runs its course.

Farmer playing Fifteen Puzzle


Wild West Game – Race Around the World – Messenger Boy

Vintage board games from the 1900s (8)


Day at the Circus – Uncle Sam’s Mail – Parlor Game of Golf

Vintage board games from the 1900s (1)


Mother Goose Games –  Mademoiselle Lenormand’s Fortune-Telling Game – Punch & Judy

Vintage board games from the 1900s (2)


Mother Goose’s trip to the Moon and Egypt – Red Riding Hood and Slide – Baseball and hunting and trapping

Vintage board games from the 1900s (3)


Mail, express and accommodation – Telegraph Boy game – Game of Louisa

Vintage board games from the 1900s (4)


Big game hunting – Tobogganing at Christmas – (The game of) Pyramids

Vintage board games from the 1900s (5)


Kriss Kringle visits – Department store – Steeplechase and yacht race

Vintage board games from the 1900s (6)


Go-bang – Pilgrim’s progress – From log cabin to white house

Vintage board games from the 1900s (7)


The whirlpool game

Vintage game - Whirlpool


Three Guardsmen

Vintage Bradley game - Three Guardsmen


Mary and John – an antique game

Vintage game - Mary and John


Department Store game

Vintage game - Department Store


Game of Obstacles

Vintage game - Game of Obstacles


Vintage Honey Bee Game

Vintage game - Honey Bee Game


Jack and Jill

Vintage game - Jack and Jill


Logomachy (or War of Words)

Vintage game - Logomachy


Mail and Express

Vintage game - Mail Express - Bradley


Nellie Bly

Vintage game - Nellie Bly

Phoebe Snow

Vintage game - Phoebe Snow


Pirate and traveler

Vintage game - Pirate and Traveler


Spoof (The cheer-up game)

Vintage game - Spoof


Voyage round the world

Vintage game - Voyage Round the World


The Sixteen/Fifteen Puzzle


Old maid and old bachelor – Young folk’s geographical game – Fireside series

Antique games from 1903 (5)


Game of wild animals – Grandma’s games – Madame Morrow’s fortune telling cards

Antique games from 1903 (6)


Merry Punch and Judy game – Double Eagle anagrams – Popular authors

Antique games from 1903 (7)


Household series – Favorite series – India

Antique games from 1903 (1)


Peter Coddle series – Nickel series – Peter Coddle

Antique games from 1903 (2)


Old maid game – Elite conversation cards – Dime series

Antique games from 1903 (3)

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