Which Came First, the Goose or the Egg?

CaptionStrong recently acquired a very rare and important board game—“The Jolly Game of Goose.” The game is printed on paper with old, yellowed tape on its folds. It is a prime candidate for intensive conservation (restoration) treatment. But why is it so important to the museum?

The game of goose is an ancient children’s game, possibly tracing its roots all the way back to an ancient Egyptian game called “Mehen,” which was played in early Old Kingdom times (2686–2134 BC). Later, Francesco de Medici of Italy sent a copy of this game to King Felipe II of Spain in the 16th century. The game went on to become one of the most popular games in Europe during that time.

Laurie's New and Entertaining Game of Goose, United Kingdom, 1831, from the collection of the V&A Museum of Childhood.The American goose game in the museum’s collection is based on an English version printed as early as 1831 called “Laurie’s New and Entertaining Game of the Golden Goose.” Our game is nearly an exact duplicate of that English game, except printed in reverse—the British goose faces right while the American version faces left. Our game is dated 1851 and is the only known copy of this game, printed in America, in an American collection today. Needless to say, we’re delighted that an important game collector made this item available to the museum.

The goose game is a classic race game. In fact, all race games invented afterward are derived from it. From Mouse Trap to Monopoly and from Candy Land to Chutes and Ladders, many of our most popular and best-loved games are traced to this simple model. So the museum’s newest game is one of the country’s oldest, and many games we play today are direct descendants of this 150-year-old goose!