Games Fun Fact

Games in the Parlor

Just as he played games with the grandchildren on the West Lawn, Thomas Jefferson taught them games in the parlor, "suitable to the hour and to the place."

Board Games

Set of Thirty Chessmen, c. 1770-90. Dieppe, France. Ivory. Photograph by Edward Both adults and children played board games at Monticello, such as The Game of the Goose, which resembles Parcheesi and was invented in Italy in the sixteenth century. Chess was one of Jefferson's favorite games, and one that he taught his granddaughter Ellen Wayles Randolph to play. In the summer, the two would carry the chess set outdoors and play under the trees on the West Lawn. Quotations by and about Thomas Jefferson on the subject of chess are located in the "Research and Collections" section of this Web site.

Word Games

In addition to board games, the family also played word games, as described by several family members.

"In the winter evenings, sitting around the fire at dusk, the children were encouraged by Grandpapa to play games suitable to the hour and to the place. He often joined them in games such as 'Hunt the Slipper' or 'I love my Love with an A, I took him, or her, to the sign of the Antelope, or the Anchor, and I treated her to Almonds,' the 'my love' was loved with a B & C &c., the point being to quickly answer some place or some thing, the name of which began with the specified letter. In case of mistake or too much hesitation on the part of the person who was to answer, there would be a forfeit." Martha Jefferson Trist Burke, Jefferson's great-granddaughter, recorded these memories that she had heard from her mother and aunts.

Her mother, Virginia Randolph Trist, had earlier written: "When it grew too dark to read, in the half hour which passed before candles came in, as we all sat round the fire, he taught us several childish games, and would play them with us. I remember that 'Cross-questions,' and 'I love my Love with an A,' were two I learned from him; and we would teach some of ours to him."

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Image Credits

  • Set of Thirty Chessmen, c. 1770-90. Dieppe, France. Ivory. Photograph by Edward Owen.

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