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The Game of Pope and Pagan or Siege of the Stronghold of Satan by the Christian Army

board game

The traditional game Fox and Geese is one of the oldest board games, apart from such classics as chess and checkers. Fox and Geese is played on a more specific cross-shaped board and is a strategy game primarily for children. In general, players assume one of the game's roles and employ strategic moves to keep their pieces on the board. The "geese" outnumber the "foxes" but their moves are more limited. Researchers found medieval-era Fox and Geese gameboards carved into church pews in Germany, where the game originated around 1400. A relative of the so-called Viking game "Hnefatafl," Fox and Geese is known by many names and variations in play according to where it appeared. Some of these names include Hares and Hounds, Wolf and Lambs, Knights and Champions, and various sets in foreign languages. One early American version is named Popes and Pagans or Seige of the Stronghold of Satan. Esteemed early toymakers W. and S. B. Ives, of Salem, Massachusetts, produced Popes and Pagans first in 1844. The United States was then involved in a wave of anti-Catholic bias known as nativism. Briefly, the movement grew out of New England Puritan distrust of the Catholic church and its Pope, and peaked during the 1840s when this distrust widened to include recent immigrant populations of Catholic faith. The board game is a reminder of how strong the nativist movement became and how a game helped promote its ideals even among children. Players assume the roles of either the Pope and the pagan, or as the rival "beseigers, assailants, or missionaries." And if the beseigers are successful, "the party who plays the black men, are expected to be very liberal in his or her contributions to the missionary cause, for having dared to defend a bad cause."

  • Manufacturer: W. & S. B. Ives
  • Material: printed paper | cardboard | wood | rubber
  • Origin: Salem, MA
  • Style: strategy
  • Object ID: 114.1235
  • Credit Line: Gift of Diane Olin in Memory of Steve Olin
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