Just like children today, boys and girls in early America enjoyed simple toys and games that could be played alone or with others. We have chosen to make timeless toys and games that were popular from early times right through modern day, with activities ranging from the athletic Game of Graces through the thoughtful Bilbo-Catcher toy.
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Simple whirling toys were mentioned in English literature as early as 1686, and would certainly have been as popular in early America as they were in Europe. A folk toy that could have easily been made with materials at hand, this toy amused children from colonial times right through the westward migrations, and continues to fascinate children today.
Toys of the cup & ball family had already been favorite childhood amusements by the 18th century, and they have remained popular throughout American history. In simple cup & ball toys, the ball is tossed and caught in a cup on the end of a stick. In the more difficult bilbo catcher variation, the ball can also be caught on the tip of the opposite side of the spindle by a hole drilled in the ball.
The Game of Jacks is played today by youngsters as a game of skill, with increasingly difficult moves required while the ball is in play to determine the winner. We cast our pewter jacks to match closely the size and feel of traditional iron jacks, rather than the smaller white metal pieces that are more common today. The Game of Jacks grew out of an ancient game of chance and these jacks of antiquity are actually close relatives of dice, which started as pieces in games of chance and became widely used in childhood dice games as well as board games. Our dice provide history as well as instructions for some simple games.
Games were a popular distraction in early American households, and peg games such as Fox & Geese were played at home and in the taverns alike.
Toys and games that rely on simple wooden hoops for play are as popular now as they have been throughout history. We bend our hoops here at our Vermont mill in the traditional way, steaming green lumber from local hardwood trees to form bent wood parts for our musical instruments as well as our toys and games.