What Games Did Children Play in 1904?
By Lorraine Rock
Updated September 22, 2017
The year 1904 was the beginning of an era: The industrial revolution was in full swing and life was changing rapidly. Many toys and games children use today were invented around this time. Though poor children as young as 9 years old were forced to work in factories, middle-class and wealthy children had manufactured toys, made from wood or metal and early types of plastic. Young, lower-class children usually had homemade toys, or cheap toys from a market stall.
Many families in 1904 spent their evenings together playing games. Snakes and ladders was already a popular board game; Monopoly was invented in 1903 and a version of the game "Life" had just been invented. Many outdoor games, such as baseball, had companion board games for indoor use. Chess and checkers were popular with both young and old players. Poorer families would have had fewer resources, but cheap paper versions of board games were available from roadside market stalls. Jigsaw puzzles were often made from old maps stuck to cardboard.
Card games and guessing games were popular in 1904. Children would play simple games such as "Old Maid" and "Snap." A precursor to "20 Questions" was "What Am I Thinking Of" and tag, "Hide and Seek," charades and "Musical Chairs" were active games for indoor play. With no television or radio, children were adept at making up their own parlor games and activities. Girls would also play with dolls -- china for those with money, rag or paper dolls for the rest.
Street games such as hopscotch and skipping were mainly girls games. Both sexes played with wooden or metal hoops, which they propelled with hooked poles, but only boys could ride bicycles. Street games of baseball and touch football were also popular with boys. Girls were discouraged from such rough and dirty play, and were expected to spend much of their day inside with their mothers learning how to cook and clean.
Rich and Poor
The divisions between rich and poor were much wider at the turn of the 20th century than today, and many poor children would have had little time for play. They were expected to work on the farm or in factories. The children of the rising middle class had the most freedom to play street games. Upper-class children played inside and had governesses and scheduled activities. When permitted, they could play games like croquet and cricket on their own estates, but had little interaction with children outside their immediate family or set.
Lorraine Rock has worked as a writer since 1978. She is a certified medical technologist with a Master of Health Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and journalism, as well as several health related diplomas. Rock has worked in health disciplines including laboratory medicine, anesthesia and pharmacy.