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Have Some Fun with 19th Century Games

No batteries or electricty are required to enjoy these fun old-school activities.

The Cole-Heyward House, built as a summer home for a local plantation owner, was constructed circa 1841 and is one of only eight antebellum homes remaining in Bluffton. On Sept. 22, the home will be the site of Heyward House Fun Day: 19th Century Games. The special program will showcase popular games from the 19th century and compare them to the games we play today. Here are a few of the games that will be showcased, along with details on how they are played.

Heyward House Fun Day: 19th Century Games
When: 11 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Sept. 22
Where: Heyward House Museum, 70 Boundary Street, Bluffton
Cost: $5 for children, $10 for adults
Details: Learn how to play 19th century games like rolling hoop, marbles, cup and ball and buzz saw to see how they compare to the games we play today.
Info: or 843-757-6293

Buzz Saw

What you need: One large button and a long length of crochet thread.

How to play: Put the thread through both button holes until there is plenty of cord on both sides of the button. Tie off the string and pull it tight. Hold the thread with the button in the center, then wind it up by making small, rapid circles with your hands. When it is completely wound, pull outward. It should vibrate and make a cool buzzing noise. By moving your hands in and out, you can keep the buzz saw going.


What you need: A small collection of marbles and a larger shooter marble for each player. Chalk if you are outside or string if you are inside.

How to play: Draw a circle 3-feet wide on a pavement in chalk, or make one out of string if you’re playing indoors on carpet. Choose your shooter marble, which should be bigger than any of your other marbles. Put five to 10 other marbles in the center of the ring to play. When it’s your turn, kneel outside the ring and flick your shooter marble out of your fist with your thumb, trying to hit as many marbles out of the ring as you can. If you knock any marbles out of the ring, keep them and have another turn. If you don’t knock any marbles out of the ring, leave your shooter marble in the ring until your next turn and the next player takes their turn. Continue until the ring is empty. The winner is the person with the most marbles at the end of the game. You can return your marbles to each other at the end of the game, unless you are playing for keeps.

Red Rover

What you need: At least five friends and a tolerance for pain.

How to play: The game is played between two lines of players, usually called the East or West teams, positioned approximately 30 feet apart. The game starts when the first team calls a player out by singing the line, “Red rover, red rover, send (player on opposite team) right over.” The immediate goal for the person called is to run to the other line and break the team’s chain, formed by the linking of hands. If the player called fails to break the chain, they join the team. If the player successfully breaks the chain, they may select either of the two “links” broken by the successful run and take them to join their team. The other team then calls out “red rover” for a player on the opposite team and play continues. When only one player is left on a team, they also must try and break through a link. If they do not succeed, then the opposing team wins. Otherwise, they are able to get a player back for their team.

Rolling Hoop

What you need: A large ring or hoop and a stick.

How to play: A large hoop is rolled along the ground by a stick wielded by the player. The aim of the game is to keep the hoop upright for long periods of time or to do various tricks. Among the games played with the hoops are hoop races, as well as games of dexterity. One version is toll, where players have to drive their hoop between two stones placed two to three inches apart without touching.

Turnpike is a game where one player drives the hoop between pairs of objects, such as bricks, at first placed so that the opening is about a foot wide, with each gate kept by a different player. After running all the gates, the openings are made smaller by one inch, and the player trundling the hoop runs the course again. The process repeats until they strike the side of a gate, then they and the turnpike keeper switch places.

Cup and Ball

What you need: A cup and handle with a small ball attached by string. Patience.

How to play: The player holds the cup by the handle and lets the ball hang freely. The player then tosses the ball upward by jerking the arm holding the toy, attempting to catch the ball in the cup. If they succeed at getting the ball in the cup, they get one point. They then do it again and again to see how many points they can get in a row. If the person misses, they then have to start over with zero points. It’s a simple but challenging game that really tests hand-eye coordination.


What you need: Chalk, a small object and some hops.

How to play: The first player tosses a small object onto the court. The marker must land completely within the square without touching the line. The player then hops through the course, skipping the square with the marker in it. Single squares must be hopped on one foot. For the first single square, either foot may be used. Side-by-side squares are straddled, with the left foot landing in the left square, and the right foot landing in the right square. Optional squares marked “safe” are neutral squares and may be hopped through in any manner without penalty. After hopping into “safe,” the player must turn around and return through the course on one or two legs depending on the square until reaching the square with the marker. The player reaches down to retrieve the marker and continues the course as stated without touching a line or stepping into a square with another player’s marker. Upon successfully completing the sequence, the player continues the turn by tossing the marker into square number two and repeating the pattern. If, while hopping through the court in either direction, the player steps on a line, misses a square, or loses balance, the turn ends. Players begin their turns where they last left off. The first player to complete one course for every numbered square on the court wins the game.