Friday, March 16, 2018

Let's Bat That Around

A craze swept 1875 Seattle, a game of skill and stamina dating from ancient times. It was played from the fine houses on the hill to the logging camps in the woods. The game you ask?

Battledore and shuttlecock.

Likely the forerunner of badminton and popular in India and China, battledore and shuttlecock was far simpler. All one needed to play was a small racket made of wood either covered with parchment or strung with gut (the battledore) and a cork stuck with feathers (the shuttlecock). One could play alone, but it was commonly played in pairs.

The idea was to keep the shuttlecock in the air as long as possible, so you needed to take into account the height and reach of your partner and well as your own. You might also consider the wind, which could catch the shuttlecock and send it spinning away. Supposedly the record for number of hits in the nineteenth century was set in Somerset, England, at more than 2,000 times!

Battledore and shuttlecock was a children’s game during Regency England and well into the late 1800s. Jane Austen played the game with her nephews. As I was looking for pictures to accompany this blog, I stumbled across this one dating from the 1700s:

Supposedly, the satirical cartoon makes fun of ladies' fashions with feathers and hooped skirts. I couldn’t help wondering if there was a deeper meaning. Russia and England playing with France, for example?

Even though England embraced badminton beginning in the early 1870s and the game eventually made its way to America, battledore and shuttlecock remained popular on the frontier for some time.

I’ll give you something else that might be popular on the frontier—I’m guest blogging today on Petticoats and Pistols, a blog devoted to romancing the West, yesterday and today. Stop by and say hi. 

No comments: