On November 7, 2019, I was delighted to help celebrate the induction of Magic: The Gathering into The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame. And that occasion inspired me to think back on my own personal history with the game. I played Magic: The Gathering for the first time during my senior year of high school. I’d played card games before, of course, but no amount of poker or Uno could prepare me for what, I would eventually learn, was the grandfather of all collectable card games.
Alec S. Hurley, 2018 Strong Research Fellow
PhD Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Just after Thanksgiving of 2018, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks at The Strong museum on a Valentine-Cosman fellowship. I wanted to know how board games mirror our understanding of ourselves, and how that understanding has changed over the last half-century or so.
Some time ago, I worked at a bookstore. My days were filled with hauling stacks of books, shelving books, looking up titles, and endlessly restocking whatever Oprah’s latest recommendation was. My coworkers were witty and humorous, and on slow days we’d chat while shelving or alphabetizing books. It was during one of these conversations that I first heard the term curmudgeon, as a coworker deemed herself “Captain Curmudgeon” which made me chuckle, but also think.
Fans of The Bachelorette and romance novels might be interested to know that The Coquette and her Suitors recently joined The Strong’s collections. This 1858 game features some of the most detailed design and lithography available at that time and undoubtedly drew its title from one of the most popular novels of that era, first published anonymously in 1797. The Coquette: or, The History of Eliza Wharton was still a best-seller some 50 years later and was not credited to an author until 1856, 16 years after novelist Hannah Webster Foster had died. Two years later, the Boston publisher and bookseller Brown, Taggard & Chase named a board game after the book’s protagonist, whose coquettish behavior led to her early demise. The book tells a sad story of a good girl whose dream of independence was overcome by society’s rules. But the board game paints her quite differently and the publisher probably only chose the game’s title for the mass recognition of the term “coquette.”
Today people find themselves bombarded with ideas, images, and characters from every kind of media.