Games for Girls from the 1862 American Girls’ Book

girls and peacockWhile the boys were outside building snow forts and giant men, the girls were inside putting on plays, playing games, or amusing themselves with paper and cardboard and cloth following the directions in the 1862 American Girl’s Book by Miss Leslie, a volume intended as an “unpretending manual of light and exhilarating amusements; most of which will be found on trial to answer the purpose of unbending the mind or exercising the body, at the same time interesting the attention.”

The number of activities in this little book is truly astonishing. Geared for all ages from toddlers to adults, it is wonderful resource for anyone interested in games and handicrafts from the Civil War period. Teachers whose students are studying the Civil War may want to try some of these games with their students and compare them to ones we play today.

Section One: Sports and Pastimes gives directions for games with delightful names such as Lady Queen Anne – a guessing game, Puss in the Corner – 5 players rush to claim the 4 corners of a room, Mr. Pope and his Lady – a plate is spun and if it lands wrong side up the player pays a forfeit, Hot Buttered Beans – a version of Hot and Cold, and Stir the Mush – a version of musical chairs.

It also includes directions for the Christmas Bag, the game they played in the children’s book Keep A Good Heart that I wondered about in my Christmas Story post. Here are the directions – note the interesting trick parents could play on their offspring at the end (I personally think the trick would be cleaning up the resulting mess!):


Fill with sugar plums a large bag of thin white paper and tie a string around the top to keep it fast. Then suspend it to the centre of a large door-frame (the folding door for instance), or to the ceiling if convenient. Each of the children must be blindfolded in turn, and provided with a long stick. They are then led within reach of the bag and directed to try while blindfolded to strike the bag with the stick, and are allowed to make three attempts; after which, if unsuccessful, they must give place to the next. The play goes on in this manner till some one strikes the bag with the stick so as to tear a hole in the paper; upon which the sugar-plums fall out and are scattered over the floor, when all the children scramble for them. For older children there may be a second bag filled with little books, small pin-cushions, bodkins, emery-bags, ribbon-yards, and things of a similar description.

This amusement may be concluded, by one of the family bringing in a bag which has been secretly filled with flour, and hanging it to the door-frame as if, like the others, it was stored with sugar-plums or pretty things. The company must not be apprized of its real contents, and must as before try blindfolded to strike it with the stick. When a hole is torn in the bag, every one near it will be dusted with the flour.

Christmas Bag

The manual goes on with sections on board games, card games, and various needlework and craft projects. All to keep little girls’ fingers busy all the day long.


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