Shuffleboard was also popular in the early American colonies. Bridget Bishop was the first of nineteen people executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. She was somewhat disreputable as she operated taverns which had frivolous games like shuffleboard. So, clearly shuffleboard was well known in England and America from before and after the founding of the Maryland colony. It is not surprising that Cecil Calvert would participate in what was then a relatively popular game. Most importantly, Charles seems to have found a gift his father appreciated.

Silas Hurry, Curator of Collections and Archaeological Lab Director shares more details about gaming.

 "The Courtyard of an Inn with a Game of Shuffleboard" Adriaen van Ostade, 1677

“The Courtyard of an Inn with a Game of Shuffleboard” Adriaen van Ostade, 1677

“In 1672, Charles Calvert wrote to his father, Cecil Calvert the Lord Baltimore that he was sending him a gift. “I doe Intend to send yor Lopp … as much Planke of Blacke Wallnutt as will make a Shouell Board Table, 30 foot Longe with stuffe of the same wood for a frame which I shall present yor Lopp with.” About a year later in another letter to his father, Charles was “very glad to understand from yor Lopp the Blackwallnut planke has made so noble a shovell board Table.”

While we tend to think of shuffleboard as a geriatric activity undertaken deck side or perhaps a game one sees in a bar, it has a long history in Europe even before the Maryland colony is formed. If one can believe “the Google,” shuffle board was widespread enough that Henry VIII actually regulated it, banning commoners from playing the game. Henry apparently also lost money while gambling on the game so that there is a reference of royal expenses for 1532 which shows a payment from the Privy Purse of £9, “Paied to my lord Wylliam for that he wanne of the kinges grace at shovillaborde.” Shuffleboard also shows up in Samuel Pepys’ diary of April 5, 1665 – “at Hackney, did there eat some pullets we carried with us, and some things of the house; and after a game or two at shuffle-board, home”

Colonial Games and Toys

Some Colonial Games and Toys That You Should Know

Brought to you from Historic St. Mary’s City in Southern MD, where vacation is both fun and educational.

Colonial Games and ToysDuring the colonial era, most kids had high responsibilities and lesser resources to play with compared to contemporary children. Also, the games and toys back then were less sophisticated than what we have now. In colonial times, children had to help with household chores, such as fetching water, sewing, caring for livestock, carrying wood, cooking, among others. So, colonial kids have less time to play. Nevertheless, during their leisure time, they still have some colonial games and toys that they often use to catch fun. Kindly read further to learn about the common games and toys during the colonial times.

  • Classical Games

Although less sophisticated, the classical children had toys as the modern kids do now. Most toys back then had educational values as well as helps develop the physical abilities of the kids, such as speed and strength. Tag, swimming, and ball games do not only improve the running and strength qualities of the kids but also prepare for the physical demands of adulthood. While some games are less physical, they helped enhance the problem-solving and analytical skills of the colonial kids.

  • Turning Chores into Competitive games

Although during the colonial era, the children had fewer toys to play with, still, they never shy away from engaging competitive games. Often than not, the kids would be seen turning their daily responsibilities into games and challenging one another to see who is the faster or the best. Duties such as fetching woods from the forest were usually turned into a game that tests speed and strength. Additionally, most families back then were extended families. Thus, kids often had relatives and companions to play with. Mostly, the kids would gather together to sing their favorite songs and rhymes.

  • Sport activities

During the classic days, kids used to create their own sporting events, such as leapfrog, relay racing, tag, “London Bridge is Falling Down,” among others. Also, there were seasonal favorites such as swimming and sledding. And back then, you would see kids performing jumping with a high rope and hopscotch. Most of these events still exist in modern times, and many are now competitive activities at the highest level, such as the Olympics.

  • Homemade Toys

The majority of toys during colonial times were either created by the kids or their parents. Some of these toys include dolls, archery sets, peg games, ball and cup, Jacob’s Ladder, and spinning tops. Most of them were practical and straightforward to practice. Also, hoops were very common among the children back in those days. Sometimes, you might see the kids running and rolling the hoops or tossing and catching them – it all depends on what’s common in a specific area. Colonial kids were taught how to aim and hunt wild animals when they grow old with arching toys. While the colonial boys preferred ball playing and kite flying, the colonial girls would play with their dolls or sew.

  • Dice, Marbles, and Jacks

Another colonial game back then is the dice games. Unlike the contemporary dice game, it used to be a simple game with repetitive rolls. Also, colonial kids loved marbles as they were used as the basis for many colonial games. Jacks and Wooden peg games served as logic and strategy games in classical times as one or many children can engage it at a go.


We are confident that many of the classical games and tops still exist in this modern time. For many years, most of the historical games have survived and evolved to become sophisticated events. You would even see some in international games and sports, such as high jumping, football, archery, racing, among others.

Visit Historic St. Mary’s City in Southern MD during your next family fun vacation.



Just For Fun