Victorian Fun & Games

Did you Know…

Croquet, more commonly known as, “that game I used to play with my family when I was a kid until we all went rogue and started chasing each other around with mallets,” was invented in Ireland (called “crooky”) and then brought to England in the mid 1800s. The Victorian leisure class loved croquet, creating wide stretches of lawn on which to play, in parks and at private homes during garden parties.  Croquet sets were readily available and inexpensive.

Croquet was a popular sign on the times.  An unusual example of the game, complete with hedgehogs and flamingos, made it into Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1864).  Etiquette books of the day gave advice on how to have a successful garden party with croquet.  They directed women to dress in “jaunty costumes suited to the exercise”, and fashion designers created dresses specifically for playing croquet (picture) with brighter fabrics and bolder patterns, and (sometimes) higher hemlines. Shoes, stockings and petticoats were part of the design, as ladies could flash a well-clad (and scandalous!) ankle on occasion while playing the ball.

The biggest lure of the game was the opportunity for young people to be active and socialize with people of the opposite gender in an informal setting. Some places, however, kept the genders segregated during the game (including the croquet lawns at Central Park in New York City, until 1878), to the chagrin of many. The game traveled west, despite grass lawn availability. It was popular in Phoenix even in the hotter months, with the August 23, 1891 and June 30, 1894 Arizona Republican touting “croquet in the moonlight” on the front page of the paper.  If it was too hot outside, though, you could play croquet in your parlor with a table top game (pictured above).

Croquet was sought-after until around World War I, and regained popularity again after the Second World War as a family backyard game.  In the 1970s and 1980s, interest in the game as a competitive sport took hold, with creation of the United States Croquet Association (1977), the Croquet Foundation of America (1979), and the American Croquet Association (founded in Phoenix in 1987, twelve years after the Arizona Croquet Club, in 1975).  Learn more about croquet at the websites linked above, and also from the Born in 1808 and Edwardian Promenade blogs.

  • 2018 Exhibits

    Plate Expectations: Victorian Dining, Decorum & Dishes – Learn Victorian dining etiquette, and see beautiful and rarely displayed pieces of our collection in this exhibit at the Rosson House.  From olive spoons to chocolate pots, oyster plates to tilting water pitchers, and both historic and prehistoric dining artifacts from archaeological digs at Heritage Square (on loan from Pueblo Grande Museum), this exhibit is sure to show you something you’ve never seen before!   Plate Expectations is on display February through October 2018, and is included with Museum admission.

    Visitor Center Exhibit  – Re-opening this month, our new Visitor Center features an exhibit that introduces visitors to early Phoenix and Block 14, now known as Heritage Square.  This is a free exhibit, and is open during the renovation and during regular business hours.

    You are Here: Mapping Early Phoenix – Visit us this month for this in depth look at what Phoenix looked like a hundred years ago, and how it has changed over time.  You are Here is a free exhibit located in the Stevens-Haustgen Bungalow Heritage Exhibit Gallery.  It is displayed in partnership with the Maricopa Country Recorders Office, and with help from a grant from APS.