A Beautiful 1880s Geography Game for the "Rising Generation"

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Feb. 24 2014 10:00 AM

A Beautiful 1880s Geography Game for the "Rising Generation"

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This map is from a geographical game meant for children, published in the 1880s. The game starts in Hartford, Conn.—the location of the publishing company that sold the set—and proceeds westward via a northerly route, and then back east via a tour of the South, ending up in New York City after 200 total possible “stops.”

The beautiful game board reflected a then-current vision of the kinds of “rambles” that would intrigue a childish populace weaned on Western dime novels and adventure stories. Miners, cowboys, and teepees feature heavily. The bottom left-hand corner features an inset tableau of a group of Native Americans watching a train pass by, with sadness in their faces—a common motif at the time, as people justified the development of the West as an inevitable fact of life.

Advertisement

The Internet Archive has a digitized version of the Harvard College Library’s copy of the instructions for the game. Gameplay appears not to have required any geographical knowledge. Players spin a teetotum and “travel” to the number indicated by their spin. The person in charge reads the paragraph of geographical information in the guidebook that corresponds to the place marked by the number, while the players listen.

Subsequent spins are subject to a complex numerical scheme, guaranteeing that players move forward, rather than backward. Players’ progress is dictated entirely by luck, making the game a piecemeal geography lecture spiced up with the barest element of suspense.

I first saw this map on the entertaining Big Map Blog. The Library of Congress and the David Rumsey Map Collection each have a copy in their digital archives. Click on the image below to reach a zoomable version. 

RamblesMapFinal

Library of Congress.

Correction, Feb. 25, 2014: This post original misstated the location of the inset tableau. It is on the bottom left-hand corner, not the bottom right-hand corner.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.