Parlor Games!

Besides the obvious game of charades, other fun parlor games and amusements were popular during the 1700 and 1800s. Here’s a quick over view of a few fun games that either we don’t read about too often in books or some we still play a variation of today.

The Ball of Wool/Blowing the Feather–In this game everyone sat around a table, preferably a round one and in the middle sat either a little ball of wool or a feather. Each player then leaned lowered their faces to their part of the table and blew in the direction of the ball or feather. The object was to not let the ball or feather fall off the table near you, thus you wanted to blow–and hope those seated next to you joined you in this pursuit–the ball/feather away from you. Whoever was seated near the ball/feather when it finally was blown off the table had to offer a forfeit.*

Cupid’s Coming–This game was more suitable for a younger crowd. A letter of the alphabet was randomly chosen and the first player would say, “Cupid’s coming!” Followed by the next player asking, “Just how is cupid coming?” Then the third player would have to say a word starting with the chosen letter (say the letter was R) that ends with “ing”, so he could say, “running”. Then the next player has to answer, he could say “rowing” and so on and so on going through all the players until no more words can be thought up . However, if a player is unable to blurt an answer on their turn, or says a word that has already been said, either are dismissed from the game, have to issue a forfeit* or both.

The Messenger–All but one player line up in a row standing shoulder to shoulder. The one player who is not in the line leaves the room while the players line up then comes in and stands in front of any of the players and says, “My master sends me to you, madam/sir.” The lucky player then represses a groan and says, “What for?” His answer, “To do as I do.” Then, the “messenger” begins to do some outrageous activity his chosen player must imitate.  This activity can be as ridiculous as he wishes as long as it’s decent and keeps in the bounds of propriety. Common actions were nodding or shaking head, tapping feet, scratching chin, tapping finger on end of nose, twisting at the waist, pumping one or both arms back and forth, wiping eyes or nose with handkerchief, clapping hands on thighs and other simple yet silly looking motions. While imitating the messenger, the player may turn to his/her side and command the next in line to “Do as I do.” To which they must then do the same actions and can tell the person next to them to do as they are doing until eventually the whole room is in motion. Once the whole room is doing the master’s command, the messenger leaves the room while the players continue to act in whatever crazy manner they were before he left. Anyone who stops and gets caught must offer a forfeit.*

Blind Man’s Buff (or Bluff, depending on who you ask), and other variations of Hide and Seek–This particular game has been around since the beginning of time no doubt. Actually, it could even said it’s been played in the Bible when Adam and Eve were hiding from God. And yet, the game still exists today and was just as popular in the 1800s. Several forms of the game were played one where a person was blindfolded and walked around the room trying to tag someone else. Another Hide and Seek type game is where people would hide all throughout a large house, or a designated portion of it, and the “it” person would carry around an item, usually a scarf of some sort and when they found someone they’d give them the item then they’d become “it” without anyone else knowing, therefore, the object was to hide good because you never really knew who was a friend and who was a foe! Then of course there is the regular version most of us still play today.

And finally, a personal favorite of mine, one I’ve actually played (but without the buffer of a pillow)…

Squeak, Piggy, Squeak–This game has the potential to become downright scandalous! One person leaves the room and is blindfolded while everyone else sits down in a circle. The blindfolded player is then brought back into the room, led to the middle of the circle and spun around approximately ten times, then handed a pillow and told to go find a lap. Once the blindfolded player walks to a person, places the pillow in their lap and sits down, they request the person whose lap their sitting in to squeak or squeal like a pig. The person must comply and squeak/squeal like a pig. If the blindfolded player guesses the “pig’s” identity, they become the blindfolded player. If not, the person has to go again and again until they guess right!

So there you have it, charades may have been Carolina Banks’ favorite game, but there were other fun games people of that time got to play, too.

*forfeits will be explained tomorrow!

2 thoughts on “Parlor Games!”

  1. I’m sorry but The Messenger just sounds lame to me. Imitating someone dabbing eyes or shaking their head? I guess given the time period, that was all they could get away with. It’s nothing like Truth or Dare where I had to stand in front of my dorm and yell that I loved someone I couldn’t tolerate. You get some people looking your way, and now you’re talking fun!

    Blind Man’s Bluff has potential. It’s neat not knowing who is it.

    The Feather/Wool thing makes me think people were really bored to do that.

    Cupid’s Coming was disappointing. Here I thought it meant someone had to chase someone else around the room for a kiss.

    Squeak, Piggy, Squeak should have been combined with The Messenger. Then it would have been funny.

    1. Back then I’m sure The Messenger was a lot of fun considering men and women couldn’t touch unless they were married and so many actions we do today that we don’t give a second thought to were probably thought vulgar back then. I think it’s all relative.

      Blind Man’s Bluff would positively infuriate me. I just don’t think I could handle being blindfolded and told to go find people.

      The feather/wool made me think of a game kids play. I remember playing games like that when I was in 3rd and 4th grade.

      For shame, Ruth! Cupid’s coming is more of a children’s game (I hope). Of course in a future book I might make a variation like you described… Thanks for the idea!

      Actually Squeak, Piggy, Squeak, is a lot of fun. I’ve played it before and it’s absolutely hysterical. You know, everyone makes animal sounds a little differently. That’s what’s so fun about it. It’s hard not to laugh at the person squealing, squeaking or snorting like a pig. It’s great.

      For people at this time I don’t think it was necessarily the game that was fun, but watching them do something ridiculous–or scandalous–as their forfeit for losing! I’ll tell you all about those tomorrow.

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