Abby Locke’s Splendid Days: A Teenager’s Diary in 1860s Andover (5)

February 11th, 2011 by Jane Cairns

Abby’s diary from February 1867 continues:

Wed.  Feb. 6  Went down town with Hattie.  Met all the boys.  And up to Mary Means.  There is talk of a Calico Ball in about 4 wks.

The card game of Euchre was popular during the Civil War and brought home to many respectable parlors by returning soldiers.

Thurs. 7     Mr. Swifts came up to teach Louise chess, and Hattie, Mr. Frye, Clara and I played euchre. Our side was one game ahead all the eve.

Fri 8        O these warm beautiful days. Nearly all the snow has gone and it seemed like spring.  The air is so mild. Mother is sick again but I do not think it is serious.  Anything more than natural.

Sat. Feb. 9   Rain and mist.  Mother about the same.

Sunday 10Went to church at No. Andover in the morning.  Mother a little better at night.  She managed to get up to have her bed made.

Monday 11:  Mother a little better.  Sat up a little while at night but did not feel quite as well after it. 

Tues. Feb. 12 Went to ride with Hattie after school.  Had quite a nice time.  Made a pledge that I wouldn’t dance a single round dance next sociable. 

Abby wrote much later in her life that “Andover in the main was strictly orthodox – no cards, no dancing or any other sport.  To go to a horse race was to lose one’s reputation for good character,” yet describes in her diary her family’s participation, and that of many of their friends, in all of these activities.  Abby’s father, belonging to “a small card club with a few Andover men.  . . who did not think cards belonged to the devil” played the game of whist, a highly strategic trick-taking game that was the forerunner of the modern game of bridge.  Younger people more commonly played euchre, another four-handed game which uses a smaller 24-card deck and was quicker-playing and easier to learn.  Euchre was also extremely popular in the ranks during the Civil War, and was likely brought home to many towns by returning soldiers. 

Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe acknowledged this ongoing controversy in their  1869 American Women’s Home :   “In regard to home amusements, card-playing is now indulged in, in many conscientious families from which it formerly was excluded, and for these reasons:  it is claimed that this is a quiet home amusement, which unites pleasantly the aged with the young; that it is not now employed in respectable society for gambling, as it formerly was; that to some young minds it is a peculiarly fascinating game, and should be first practiced under the parental care, till the excitement of novelty is past, thus rendering the danger to children less, when going into the world.  .  . Still, as there is great diversity of opinion, among persons of equal worth and intelligence, a mutual spirit of candor and courtesy should be practiced.  The sneer at bigotry and narrowness of views, on one side, and the uncharitable implication of want of piety, or sense, on the other, are equally ill-bred and unchristian. “

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