As historians studying the lives of people who lived in and visited the Neill-Cochran House, we want to know more about what fun was like, for example, in 1876 or in 1905. Just like we learned earlier this year in Make it yourself, fun activities can also be productive activities; even though people had to work to make many of the objects in their houses, the task of making these things could be quite enjoyable.
We chose pomanders and putz houses for this very reason. While they’re both homemade, they were also functional. Pomanders, while decorative, were also useful in repelling insects, freshening rooms and clothing, and preventing mold and mildew. Christmas putz played an important part in families’ holiday celebrations (sometimes even surpassing the Christmas tree in popularity) and could be saved and reused for several years.
But not everything had to be productive! The history of game play pre-dates the Neill-Cochran House by thousands of years. Did you know that hopscotch dates to 500 BC, knucklebones (aka jacks) might be much, much older, early variants of chess appeared beginning in 400 AD, and that the game we know as Monopoly was actually copied from the Landlord’s Game, a game meant to teach about the perils of allowing wealth and land ownership to be concentrated in the hands of a small part of the population?
As you can see, in the lab, we found out quite a bit when we decided to take a break and do some research about what people have been doing to relax and enjoy themselves in 19th and early 20th century Austin (as well as the last few thousand years). But we need your help to understand how these historic games and pastimes compare to the likes of Minecraft, Candy Crush, and Angry Birds.