Salem holds almost as prominent a place in the history of board games as it does in the origins of American maritime commerce and Federal architecture, due in overwhelming part to Monopoly, but before the Parker Brothers there were the Ives Brothers, the true pioneers of card-and board-game production. The publishing firm of W. and S.B. Ives was founded in 1823 by William and Stephen Ives, and operated through the mid-1850s, producing the Mansion of Happiness, generally acknowledged as the first American board game, as well as the widely-popular Improved and Illustrated Game of Dr. Busby. The success of the Ives Brothers, (or really William Ives as Stephen seems to have left the partnership relatively early) in effect created an industry by sparking imitation and competition from their fellow Massachusetts manufacturer, Milton Bradley, the McLoughlin Brothers in New York, and ultimately Parker Brothers. The American Antiquarian Society has a large collection of nineteenth-century board games, including many produced by the Ives firm, and while I was browsing around its digital collections the other day (looking for something altogether different) I encountered a rather provocative Ives board game called The Game of Pope and Pagan, or Siege of the stronghold of Satan, by the Christian army which was published in 1844. It’s a simple game, a variant of the perennial Fox and Geese, in which players constituting the “Christian” army lay siege to the “stronghold of Satan” which is occupied by the Pope and pagans: in the words of the game, “this simple amusement exhibits a band of devoted missionaries, attacking the strong-hold of Satan, defended by papal and pagan Antichrist”. I spend a lot of time in seventeenth-century England (I’m assuming the game’s title is derived from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress) so I’m pretty familiar with strident anti-Catholicism but the more “modern” American offshoot in the nineteenth century shocks me every time I encounter it: what a cauldron Salem must have been at this time with its heady mixture of abolitionists and nativists (with a dash of temperance thrown in)! Apparently there were intersections among these groups but you wouldn’t know it from this game, in which “the white figures represent the missionaries, as white is they symbol of innocence, temperance, and hope…..as heraldic sable denotes grief after a loss, Pope and Pagan are in black, both denote gloom of error, and their grief at the daily loss of empire”.
W. and S.B. Ives, The Game of Pope and Pagan, or Siege of the stronghold of Satan by the Christian army, Salem, Massachusetts, 1844, © American Antiquarian Society.
January 14th, 2017 at 5:41 pm
This is about the time that the Know Nothing Party was formed. It was virulently anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant and only Protestant men could be members. This party peaked in the mid 1850s with the election of President Millard Filmore.
January 14th, 2017 at 9:21 pm
This is definitely a bit of material and cultural context for that emergence!
January 16th, 2017 at 3:45 pm
The Ursuline Convent riots in Charlestown, Mass. were only a few years earlier, in 1834, and resulted in the destruction of the convent by arson.
January 16th, 2017 at 4:11 pm
I know–a shocking event (my colleague at SSU Nancy Lusignan Schultz wrote a book on it)–but I can never quite wrap my head around this ferocious anti-Catholicism in the NINETEENTH century–that seems so late and “modern” to me–but it also persisted well into the 20th I guess.
January 16th, 2017 at 4:55 pm
At least the anti-Catholicism wasn’t universal, since my great-grandfather Bixby, a Massachusetts-born Protestant, married an Irish Catholic girl in 1846.
January 16th, 2017 at 5:21 pm
Well good for him!
March 23rd, 2018 at 7:42 am
[…] Church in America. The game was published by the W. and S.B. Ives Company. W. and S.B. were William Ives and Stephen Bradshaw Ives, a pair of brothers who went into business as publishers of the Salem Observer in Salem, Mass. Game […]
May 23rd, 2019 at 8:08 pm
Apologies for the anti-Catholicism et al. S.B. Ives was my great-great-grandfather and William Ives my great-great-greatuncle. If it’s any comfort, the family got over that kind of thing.
May 23rd, 2019 at 8:20 pm
Well it was very anachronistic of me!