Puttering About the Yard

One of my favorite memories of visiting my grandparents’ house during summer vacation is my grandpa teaching me to play croquet in the side yard. I became nostalgic for those summer days when I came across this Civil War era photograph of a group playing croquet in Washington D.C.

Patellus house. Photo, between 1862 and 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.04190

Patellus house. Photo, between 1862 and 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.04190

I decided to search the collections further for images of backyard games. I discovered that the playing of lawn games stretches back centuries. For example, the image on the left is a Japanese woodcut print depicting a badminton game played over 200 years ago.  The same game is shown on the right in this 1930s photo of a badminton match.

Young man playing badminton. Woodcut by Kiyonaga Torii, 1782 or 1783. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/jpd.00554

Hanetsuki no danjo. Woodcut by Kiyonaga Torii, 1782 or 1783. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/jpd.00554

Badminton. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1936 or 1937. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.33590

Badminton. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1936 or 1937. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.33590

Another very old game, played during Roman times and still enjoyed today, is bocce ball. A wave of Italian immigration at the turn of the century brought bocce ball to the United States where it became a popular entertainment.

Bocci, an Italian game somewhat like bowling, is another popular outdoor sport in Southington. Photo by Fenno Jacobs, May 1942. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d35143

Bocci, an Italian game somewhat like bowling, is another popular outdoor sport in Southington. Photo by Fenno Jacobs, May 1942. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d35143

Though I enjoy these activities as well as more modern yard pastimes such as cornhole or ladder ball, my favorite lawn game is still croquet. Playing croquet makes me feel connected to the past, my own and that of generations before me.

Croquet party, Old Fort Plantation, Port Royal Isl, South Carolina. Between 1863 and 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/stereo.1s03981

Croquet party, Old Fort Plantation, Port Royal Isl, South Carolina. Photo, between 1863 and 1865. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/stereo.1s03981

New York, New York. Sunday croquet game in Central Park. September 1942. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d22157

New York, New York. Sunday croquet game in Central Park. Photo, September 1942. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8d22157

Do you have any favorite lawn game memories?

Learn More:

Croquet [horseshoes] game at the annual field day of the FSA (Farm Security Administration) farmworkers community, Yuma, Arizona. Photo by Russell Lee, March 1942. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a31079

Horseshoe pitching contest at the annual field day at the FSA (Farm Security Administration) farm workers’ community, Yuma, Arizona. Photo by Russell Lee, March 1942. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8a31079

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