The games people played, 1860’s style at Upper Canada Village


Who does not have a vision of the stern and unsmiling Victorian staring out of a black and white photograph?  

Coping with the rigours of 19th century life sure seemed to have taken a toll on people’s sense of fun.  Or did it?  

Visitors to Upper Canada Village on July 28 and 29 will find out that our ancestors enjoyed many diversions and pastimes, from puzzles, baseball and parlour games to cricket, croquinole and croquet.

It’s a chock-a-block weekend, with lots of opportunities to pitch a hand-sewn baseball, compete in the three-legged race, solve a riddle, make a whirligig and play a game of fox and geese. 

“The 1860’s were a much simpler time with less technology, so people played games for recreation,” says Dave Dobbie, manager of Upper Canada Village. “We hope that our visitors will rediscover how much fun you can have without technology.”

Visitors will be encouraged to roll up their sleeves and join in the fun.

Highlights include:

• Chess tournament – Saturday 1-3:30 p.m.  Please pre-register through website

• Crockinole party, dominos and skittles tournament – Saturday and Sunday all day at the Family Activity Centre.

•Massachusetts baseball – Saturday and Sunday 2-3 p.m.  Discover the distinction between this and modern baseball, especially in regards to scoring and layout of the field.

•Cricket – Saturday  and Sunday 11- noon and 4-5 p.m. with Tom Melville.  Tom is from Wisconsin and is an expert in all things cricket.  He will instruct novices and umpire matches between teams of visitors.

•Lacrosse – Sunday 1- 2 p.m.  Watch the Cornwall Celtics demonstrate this fast-paced traditional game.

•Croquet – Saturday and Sunday 2-3p.m.  Very popular in the 1860’s, croquet involves hitting wooden balls with a mallet through hoops embedded in a grass playing court.  It was made famous when Alice in Wonderland played a very special version involving live flamingos as mallets and hedgehogs as balls.

•Children’s games – Egg races, sack races, wheel barrow races and the always exciting tug-of-war are on the program on Saturday and Sunday 3:30 p.m.-4 p.m.

•Riddles, conundrums, singing games – Join the Upper Canada Village musicians and learn a few songs that accompany games.

•Card games – All day Sunday.  Whist, a classic trick-taking card game which had its heyday in the 19th century and Euchre which is responsible for introducing the joker into modern card packs will be played.  Everyone is welcome to join in!

• Parlour games – Sunday 3- 4 p.m.  “Hide the Thimble”, “I love my love with an A”, “Ring String” and “In my Lady’s Toilette” will show that sometimes mild-sounding games can be deceivingly rowdy.

•Garden syringe – Saturday.  Cool off with the “super soakers” of the past.

The weekend of July 28-29 has also been marked to celebrate the  anniversary of the Young Interpreters’ Program.

Since 1982, the Young Interpreters Program has given youth, between the ages of 10 and 15, an opportunity to experience 19th century life first-hand.  

Young Interpreters learn traditional skills from professional historical interpreters and take part in a host of typical 19th century activities.  

Hundreds of children have spent many of their formative years at Upper Canada Village and the program is still going strong!  

On July 28 and 29, it’s time to celebrate. 

“Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Young Interpreter’s Program is a perfect fit with this event (Games People Played) as many of the games featured will be familiar to anyone who was a Young Interpreter.” 

Former Young Interpreters are invited to re-explore their favourite Village hang-outs, chat with costumed villagers, and attend school or Sunday school.  Interpreters are invited to bring a brown-paper lunch and join other former Young Interpreters for a picnic with cake and lemonade at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 29.  

Former Young Interpreter who have not received an official invitation are invited to contact 

For more information on the above events please call 1-800-437-2233 (543-4328 locally) or buy your tickets online at 

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