Entertainment in the Georgian Era – Part 2

In Part 1 of this post we looked at how the people of the Georgian era entertained themselves indoors using cards, dice, and with board games. In Part 2, we look at Georgian era Parlor Games and other “entertainments”.

Entertainments – Parlor Games and Other Pastimes

Artistic accomplishments were valued in a lady, who, according to period expectations, should be educated, but not so much as to be threatening to her husband. As a result, many young women devoted a good part of their time to drawing and painting with common subjects being landscapes and portraits. Drawing could be a form of group entertainment, as the artist’s friends and family might watch her at work if they were not serving as her models.

Georgian era woman at her Paints

Georgian Era Woman at her Paints

Blind Man’s Buff is a children’s game played as early as 2,000 years ago in Greece. In the Middle Ages, blind man’s buff was an adult game, and the blindfolded player was usually struck and buffeted as well, hence “buff.” A player touched or caught by the blind man takes on the blindfold, although sometimes the blind man must guess the identity of his captive before the removing the blindfold. If the guess is wrong, the blind man must release the captive and the game continues.

The game has been popular among adults on and off throughout history. The game has been played in England since the Tudor period, when there are references to Henry VIII’s courtiers playing it. During the 17th Century, the English diarist Samuel Pepys reported a game played by his wife and some friends in 1664. Art from the 18th and early 19th centuries shows the game continuing to be popular with adults throughout the era.

Social Group Playing Blind Man's Buff

Social Group Playing Blind Man’s Buff

Buffy Gruffy is a substitute for Blind man’s buff for those occasions where you do not want the racket of the legitimate Blind Man’s Buff, having your toes trod on, or your furniture bruised and battered. One player, with a blindfold over the eyes, stands in the middle of the room. The others arrange their chairs in a circle and silently trade places. Someone claps to start the game. The blindfolded person passes around the chairs and stops in front of one. The player may use his knees to decide if someone is sitting in that chair, since physical contact is not permitted in polite society, especially between gentlemen and ladies this was quite “stimulating” . Continue reading

Entertainment in the Georgian Era

Imagine a long winter evening stretching ahead of you – in a world without electricity. You have the light from the fireplaces that you use to heat your home but it is dim. It will cost you money to burn candles or oil lamps; and gaslights, while beginning to be common for lighting streets and public buildings, will not gain wide acceptance for use in private residences until the 1850s. If you are to spend the money for lighting, how will you and your family entertain yourselves for the hours to come? Around the open fires of homes throughout history, but mostly lost today in favor of video games, TV, and streaming video, existed a solution: The parlor game.

Indoor games for groups are as old as history. From ancient Mesopotamia onward, people have enjoyed gambling on dice or card games and playing games of strategy to pass the empty hours. In England, Francis Willughby’s Volume of Plaies (1665) describes the rules of backgammon, and gives instructions for card games, beginning with the very manufacture of the cards themselves: take “3 or 4 pieces of white paper pasted together and made very smooth that they may easily slip from one another, and be dealt & played.”

By the Georgian period, 1714 – 1830, things had changed to the point where you did not have to manufacture your own cards. There were entertainments considered proper for ladies, those proper only for men, and others considered proper for both sexes. In this article, we are going to look at those that might be enjoyed by family and friends within your own walls.

Entertainments with Cards and Dice

Commerce is an 18th-century card game akin to the French Thirty-one and perhaps an ancestor of Poker. It was popular in the later 18th and early 19th centuries, however, some writers have indicated that it was most popular with the older set during the Regency era. This game has many of the aspects of modern Poker including scoring using pairs, triples, straights, and flushes.

Men playing cards in the Georgian era

Men playing cards in the Georgian era

Cribbage was invented in the early 1600s by Sir John Suckling, an English courtier, poet, gamester, and gambler. It derives from the earlier game of Noddy. Originally, the five-card game was played where each player only discarded one card to the crib. The goal of the game is to be the first player to score a target number of points, typically 61 or 121. Players score points for card combinations that add up to fifteen, and for pairs, triples, quadruples, runs, and flushes. Following the rules of game etiquette was important, and players followed them closely in cutting, dealing, pegging, playing, and using terminology. Some accounts contend that for many centuries, Cribbage was the only card game that could legally be played for money in English pubs. Continue reading

It’s NOT About You!

Over this past weekend, I was browsing through some of the blogs that I follow and I ran across a post by Grant Oster on his Hankering for History blog. In his post, Grant was bemoaning the lack of respect that the public has for historians and complained that they often view them as reenactors / living history practitioners.

I am not going to get into a huge discussion of the fact that Living History is a part of a the branch of History known as “Public History”. Also that many reenactors/living history practitioners are working closely with professional historians to make sure that what they present is historically accurate, or that reenactors/living history practitioners have professionally published some very high quality research recently.

One of the things that struck me about Grant’s post was the clip from the TV show Desperate Housewives” that he included:

There are those in our community who do seem to forget that, when it comes to public events, or anytime we are appearing or interacting with the public, we are ambassadors of “public history.” Unfortunately, I have too often heard reenactors say that they are doing this for their own reasons and they do not really care if the public likes it or not. We need to remember that the many reenactments and other public events where we appear would not exist if it were not for the public. Many of these events are paid for by the public, through admissions, or taxes (for government-supported sites) and without that public support, those events would go away. Continue reading

I’m back………..

Well, it has been over a year since my last posting on this blog. The old saying that “life happens” rings truer with every passing year and my last year has been very busy. New projects, a new job, and a teenage daughter with an interest in musical theater all combined to keep me too busy to write. Hopefully, things are calming down and I can begin to once again write for my blogs.


I can’t say right now just how often I will be posting, I am hoping for somewhere in the range of every 2-3 weeks, but keep your eyes open for upcoming posts on living history, interpretation, and public history.

Battle of Hanging Rock

Those of you who know me know that one of my living history personas is that of Lt. Col. Thomas Brown, Commander of the King’s Carolina Rangers (KCR), a loyalist regiment during the Revolutionary War. Yesterday, August 6, was the 232nd Anniversary of one of the Battles that the unit participated in, the Battle of Hanging Rock, SC.

Historic Marker near Heath Springs, SC

Historic Marker near Heath Springs, SC

While Col. Brown was not present at that battle, a company of the KCR was present and they were instrumental in turning the tide of battle, preventing a complete rout of the British forces. To learn more about the battle check out the article that appeared in The Founder’s Blog yesterday:

Like many of the loyalist units in the south, the KCR is not well-known nor are their contributions to the British war effort well understood. 


Chuck H

When will I be? – Your First Decision in Creating a Living History Persona

Historic Reenactment not only reinforces a sense of pride in our heritage; it is educational as well. Recent movies, such as “The Patriot” and “John Adams,” as well as books about the founders have caused interest in the Revolutionary War period to mushroom. In response, some Revolutionary War Reenactment groups have attempted to make themselves more family. Similarly, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States have raised interest in those periods as well.
Mel Gibson in "The Patriot"

“The Patriot,” and other historically influenced movies,
has increased interest in living history

Taking part in Living History is a great way to escape the worries of today and “pretend” just as you did when you were young. Best of all, it is something in which you and your family can share the experience together. Continue reading

Why would American colonists remain loyal to England? – examining our preconceived notions about Loyalists

When you are starting out in living history / reenacting activities, you come equipped with many preconceived notions about American History. Regardless of the period, there are things that you learned in school, read in books, or saw in movies that help shape your vision of the past. The problem is, often times some of these are just plain wrong.

 Every country, as part of the fabric of its society, creates a historical narrative. The purpose of this “narrative” is to promote the country’s triumphs and strengths, and to promote a common national identity complete with a single set of political ideals and values. Continue reading