Thursday, August 9, 2018

BryonySeries Throwback Thursday: Croquet's Outrageous History, Part One

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Croquet's Outrageous History, Part One

At Simons Mansion’s garden party, Melissa is relieved to learn croquet is one of the planned amusements, since she had previously played it with her family at a picnic.

Of course, the annoying presence of Henry Matthews considerably diminishes her fun, especially after he sarcastically compares her playing style to Mrs. Joad, winner of the first women’s croquet championship, held in 1869 in England.

However, despite the Victorian fondness for croquet (which Boston banned in 1890 for moral reasons because young people might disappear into shrubbery together to look for balls), the game has a long, interesting, and somewhat amusing history. It has been utilized as medicinal exercise, deemed character-building and a substitute for warfare, banned for threatening civilization, and been the catalyst for full-dress balls.

Thank you Maui Croquet Club ( for sharing the croquet facts on the game’s early years.

· BC: Romans play Paganica where they walked across fields and hit a small, leather ball with a curved stick and aimed to strike certain trees. The winner was the person who hit all the trees in the fewest possible strokes.
· 1300s: Peasants in Languedoc (southern France) played a game where they hit balls with shepherd crooks through bent willow branches.
· 1830: A French doctor developed a new version of the sport, named it croquet (French for “crooked stick”), and used it as a form of outdoor exercise for his patients.
· 1851: John Jacques II, famous toy and game manufacturer, introduces croquet at the Great Exhibition in England. The game quickly becomes the vogue throughout Europe and the entire British Empire.
· 1859: First record of a croquet court in the USA, at Nahant, MA.
· 1863: Captain Thomas Mayne Reid wrote, Croquet: A Treatise and a Commentary, in which he argued that croquet was a character building alternative to actual warfare.
· 1864: John Jacques brought the rights to the rules of croquet and printed 25,000 copies of Croquet: Its Laws and Regulations. Mysteriously, the first edition of this work is described as “thoroughly revised.” That same year, the Park Place Croquet Club of Brooklyn organizes with 25 members with the quote, “Croquet is probably the first game played by both men and women in America.”
· 1867: French dictionary, for the first time, defines croquet as a game.
· 1870: The city father of Boston banned croquet as a dangerous occupation conducive to moral corruption, if not a threat, to the very structure of civilization. A councilor commented, “The lady, placing her foot upon one of two closely juxtaposed balls and administering a sharp thwack with her mallet, gives a thinly disguised symbol of female aggression against male society. Where will it all end?”
· 1871: The National Croquet Club held an extravagant tournament, in which 17,000 troups paraded around the courts, spectators were packed five deep, and there was a full-dress ball.
· 1872: Lewis Carroll invented Arithmetical Croquet.
· 1878: President Rutherford B. Hayes spent $6 of American taxpayer money on a set of fancy, boxwood, croquet balls.
· 1891: McLoughlin Brothers copyrighted the rules for Tiddledy Wink Croquet, and E.I. Horsman came out with Lo Lo the New Parlor Game Croquet where colored discs represent the (croquet) balls, and the “mallet discs” are used to snap them in positions or through the arches.

Denise M. Baran-Unland

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