Focus on classic games of early New England
(Sturbridge, Mass.) Aug. 13, 2012 – Families flock to Old Sturbridge over Labor Day weekend to give a last salute to summer and enjoy an old-fashioned "Family Fun Days" celebration 1830s style. Guests can ride in the stagecoach, take a boat ride on the Quinebaug River, and enjoy classic early 19th-century games like tug-of-war (called French and English back then), "base ball" using an ax handle for a bat, hoop rolling and marbles. They can fish in the Village millpond and enjoy a variety of "make-and-take" crafts. Highlights each day include musket firing demonstrations and the launch of a "toy fire balloon." Visitors can meet the heritage breed oxen, cows, pigs and chickens, and the OSV historians will demonstrate hearth cooking, pottery, blacksmithing and more. Details: www.osv.org; 800-SEE-1830.
"It's hard to imagine, but we have children visiting OSV who have never played hopscotch, marbles, or jump rope. It is so gratifying to see how much they enjoy these tried and true games of the past – especially our giant games of tug-of-war," notes Deb Friedman, Old Sturbridge Village vice president of public program. "As our society becomes more 'wired,' more parents want to their children to experience the "real" games they remember, rather than just the digital games so prevalent today."
Playing old-time "base ball" at Old Sturbridge Village, visitors are surprised to learn that the bases were run clockwise – starting with what is now third base. And they learn that baseball was not invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York in 1839. According to OSV historians, Americans were playing "base ball" at Valley Forge before Doubleday was even born. Boys and girls in early 19th-century America often played the game, which was also called "round ball," "town ball," "goal ball," and "baste ball." Its origins can be traced to the old English schoolboys' game of rounders.
The daily launch of a toy "fire balloon" on the Common is a summertime tradition at Old Sturbridge Village. The world's first hot air balloon launch was in 1783, so the fascination with balloons was in full swing during the time period portrayed at the Village. The balloon is constructed with tissue paper as it would have been in the early 1830s. In fact, directions for making and launching toy fire balloons were listed in books of the day, including The Boy’s Treasury of Sports, Pastimes, and Recreations and The American Boys Handy Book: What to do and how to do it.
Marble games have been played by children since ancient times, first with small, round pebbles, then marbles made of clay, metal, stone and glass. In the 1830s, marbles were made of clay and imported from England or Germany. The cheapest marbles were made of local clay.
Children have also enjoyed rolling, or trundling hoops since antiquity, and New England colonists brought this pastime with them from Europe. Using a wooden hoop and stick, the goal is to keep the hoop upright for the farthest distance. The game is perfect entertainment for one child playing alone, or for groups of children competing in hoop races.
The classic game of tug-of-war was called "French and English" in the early 1800s, no doubt because France and England had been at war with each other on and off for centuries. The game was popular because any number of people could play and the only equipment needed was a rope. And if a rope wasn't available, the first person on each side simply grabbed hands, their teammates grabbed their waists, and everyone pulled.
Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country. The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. seven days a week. OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. Admission: $24; seniors $22; children 3-17, $8; children 2 and under, free. Woo Card subscribers get $5 off adult daytime admission; college Woo cardholders receive $12 off adult daytime admission. For times and details of all OSV activities visit: www.osv.org or call 1-800-SEE-1830.
Old Sturbridge Village