Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Bender Like Billiken - the Idolatrous Origin of SLU's Nickname


The mascot for the St. Louis University sports teams is a Billiken. Although obscure now, the Billiken was a worldwide phenomenon and household word a century ago when the name became attached to the university. The Billiken was originally designed and marketed as a good luck charm, an idol of the “god of things as they ought to be.”

I am the Prince of Happiness,

I simply make you smile;

I prove that life’s worth living

And that everything’s worth while.


At the time, the word mascot referred to all good luck charms, generally, and was not limited to team names, as generally understood today. Even teams with nicknames might have a “mascot,” an actual person, sitting on the bench with them to bring them luck. Or a particular player or opponent might be thought of as a “mascot” during a run of good luck or bad luck, in which case he might be a “mascot” for the opposing team.

So it is unsurprising that a team might choose a “Billiken” as the mascot (good luck charm) for their team. St. Louis University was not the first or only team at the time to use the term “Billiken” as their team nickname, or to invoke the powers of a “Billiken” good luck charm to help their cause.

It gives me great pleasure to name the Wichita baseball club. I suggest a name that I think very appropriate. It suggests good luck, and happiness, something our boys should possess and is a very good mascot. It is the “Billikens.”

 The Wichita Eagle (Kansas), January 24, 1909, page 27.


A baseball team in Pueblo, Colorado adopted an image of an Indian called “Heap Crazy Fan” as a “Billiken of good luck for the team,”i using “Billiken” in a generic sense, meaning a good luck charm.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a local fan of the Red Birds baseball team presented the team with a new “mascot,” in the sense of a good luck charm.

Mr. J. B. Pearce, the popular third-degree fan and supporter of the Red Birds, has presented the team with a mascot that always wears “the smile that won’t come off.” The mascot is quite novel, it being a “Billikens doll.

The “Billikens” always wears a broad smile itself, and causes the same mark of good humor to mount the countenance of everyone that gazes upon it. It is indeed an ideal mascot and will surely bring good luck to the Red Birds, who have accepted it and will take it on the trips as well as have it around when at home.

The Raleigh Times, June 23, 1909, page 6.


An amateur team in or near Philadelphia,ii and a professional team in Fort Wayne, Indiana adopted the name “Billikens.”


The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, June 17, 1909, page 6.

A fan gave the New York Giants baseball team a “Billiken” that didn’t work very well - that is, until they moved it.

“The Luck Changed for the Giants when they Moved Their Billiken”

A billiken which some thoughtful “fan” had presented to the Giants on Tuesday had been relegated to the extreme outfield [for] its poor work, there was serious talk of asking for waivers on it. In the fourth inning Seymour put the ball into the upper grand stand, just a few inches foul, for one of the longest hits ever made on the grounds.

Journal and Tribune (Knoxville, Tennessee), April 24, 1910, page 12.


A professional team from Montgomery, Alabama of the Southern League (and later the South Atlantic League), were called the “Billikens” for at least five years, from 1911 through 1916.

The Montgomery team of the Southern League has dropped its old nickname “Climbers” and will be known this season as the “Billikens.”

 The Lake County Times (Hammond, Indiana), April 3, 1911, page 3.


The Chattanooga News (Tennessee), October 19, 1914, page 9.


St. Louis University may not have been first, but they are the last one standing using Billiken as its team name or mascot. They mystery (if there is one) is why the stuck so quickly and permanently, even as the Billiken fad faded from our collective consciousness to become a footnote of American pop-culture. The answer may be that St. Louis University adopted the name for a particular purpose, connected to a particular circumstance directly related to the team, as opposed to other places, where they merely latched onto a fad which faded as the winds of time dispersed the ephemeral zeitgeist

In January 1910, when Billiken was still a household word, St. Louis University hired the former University of Nebraska football star as its new Athletic Director, football coach, baseball coach, track coach and jack of all trades. He only stayed on for two years, but left a lasting legacy. They say he looked like a Billiken – hence the name.

The Billikens - Up to 1911, St. Louis university’s athletic teams were Bulldogs.iii A sports writer thought the late Coach Bender, smiling at the progress of a game, “looked like a billiken.” Billiken dolls were all the rage in those days and the name soon caught on with firm grip.

The Journal Times (Racine, Wisconsin), January 14, 1925, page 14.


Nashville Banner, January 17, 1935, page 10 (Note: The team had actually been called the “Blue and White,” not the “Bulldogs.”).

Bender had several features that may have reminded people of a Billiken; his “broad grin,”iv “diminutive” size, and a high forehead topped off with a pronounced hair flip.


Johnny is not much larger than a good-sized minute, but is well stocked with ginger and "pep."  His complexion is pink, his forehead high, his wig is blond and he works overtime with a winning, piquant, 4x9 smile.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 6, 1910, page 1S.

Long before Bender’s resemblance to an idol inspired the name of Saint Louis University’s sports teams, Bender himself was enshrined as an “idol” himself.

Johnny Bender, Nebraska university’s stocky football captain, and his ten teammates were pitted against Kansas University today on the gridiron and Bender won. Six to nothing was the final score of the fiercest, cleanest exhibition of the favorite college sport ever witnessed on McCook field.

Tonight the supporters of the Jayhawkers are rubbing their eyes in astonishment at the marvelous performance of the cornhusker captain, while the several hundred Nebraska rooters, who came from Lincoln to witness the struggle, have enshrined him as their idol, the greatest of all the great football warriors who ever battled in defense of the scarlet and cream.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), November 20, 1903, page 7.

The passing of the reign of the pigskin for the season at Nebraska witnessed the permanent retirement of the greatest player that Booth has developed during his five years of mentorship of the Cornhuskers. This is Johnny Bender, halfback, and quarter, the “Flying Dutchman” of the Nebraska eleven. Bender has proved himself a great foot ball player in every department of the game. Fleet of foot and a dodger of marvelous dexterity, his long runs have thrilled thousands of foot ball devotees during his career. One of Bender’s most electrifying tricks . . . is that of hurdling tacklers who disputed his path.

Omaha Daily Bee, November 27, 1904, page 9.


In 1910, St. Louis University brought in John Bender to jump start the school’s tepid sporting prospects, installing him as Athletic Director, as well as football, baseball and track coach. He lit a fire under his athletes, and their stock was on the rise.

In his first season as coach, the St. Louis University football team outscored their opponents 106 to 22, improving their record to 7-2, from a disappointing 3-5 in 1909. They were known as “Billikens” before the end of the season.

The earliest example I’ve found is from St. Louis University’s 3-0 squeaker of a win over in-state rival Missouri.

Two recovered kicks by Hall and Burress and two line plungers put the leather on the St. Louis 1-foot line when the Billikens’s head, [(St. Louis quarterback)] Dockery, punted out of his own 30-yard line.

The Kansas City Star, November 6, 1910, page 12.

They were still “Billikens” a few weeks later when Bender’s alma mater, Nebraska, refused an invitation to play St. Louis in a post-season game (perhaps the outcome of the Missouri game scared them off).

Nebraska has declined to clash with Johnny Bender’s Billikens in a post-season battle.

The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska), November 18, 1910, page 13.

Although the general reason they became “Billikens” is well known, the precise mechanism by which the name was attached to the school is unclear. The traditional explanation, offered by St. Louis University’s sports information director in the 1930s, likely gets the essence of what happened correct, but a few critical details were later disputed by two of the men named in the story.

Something to Word Billiken

The word “Billiken” has been a mystery to me for many years. I’ve never seen it listed in the dictionary, but thanks to George Killenberg we now know how it got started.

He tells this story:

“During the fall of 1910, the strange-looking creature, representing the god of things as they should be, was the rage of the country. Girls wore miniature Billikens on the tips of their hat-pins, and fellows sported Billiken watch fobs.

One afternoon a cartoon of a Billiken was left thumb-tacked on the front door of Gunn’s Drug Store in St. Louis. Beneath it was written ‘Coach Bender.’ The author of it, Charley McNamara, got the idea from the St. Louis University coach, John Bender, known as “Moonface” to his friends.

“Bender had such a roly-poly face that every time he smiled his balloon cheeks completely covered his squinty eyes. During practice one day the team ran off its plays with a gusto that was particularly pleasing, and Cartoonist McNamara got his Billiken idea by watching Bender repeatedly resemble the popular image. Billy O’Conner, Post-Dispatch sports writer, saw Bender’s act one day and exclaimed, ‘Why that guy’s a regular billiken.’

“As was previously stated, McNamara drew the Billiken as a caricature of Bender and in a short time the whole team was called Billikens. As time went on the name was taken up by the press and now is the official nickname.”

The Jackson Sun (Jackson, Tennessee, October 10, 1937, page 14.


Killenberg may be forgiven for getting the story wrong. He was only twenty years old at the time he told the story. He was born after the events in question took place, and would have based his story on what he had heard around campus, in one form or another.

Years later, one of the two men mentioned by name in the story (O’Connor) told a different version of events, and a coworker of the other one (McNamara) told a version of events that does not seem to agree with the historical record.

Based largely on Kellenberger’s 1937 origin story, McNamara and O’Connor were invited to a homecoming basketball game in 1953, where they were presented with blue and white blankets in honor of their supposed role in the creation of the nickname. The hubbub triggered a sudden interest in nailing down the details.

Killenberg’s story had seemed like a good story until a reporter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch started asking around the office. But no one could remember a cartoonist named McNamara.

When asked to clarify his role, if any, McNamara said that he had painted a Billiken for a football-themed window display at the drug store, but never labeled it as coach Bender.

“I don’t know where that story came from,” McNamara said. “I was no cartoonist. I was with the old Waters Pierce Oil Co. then. And I don’t remember ever being at a football practice with Billy O’Connor. I didn’t have time for that in those days.

“What did happen, however, was that I painted a Billiken on a window of Billy Gunn’s drug store at the corner of Grand and Laclede one day when they needed something more to decorate the window display devoted to St. Louis U. football.

“Billikens were all the rage in those days, the same as kewpie dolls and Teddy Bears were to be in a later time. I often think that it was lucky that it was the day of the Billiken, not the Teddy Bear, or we might now be referring to Capt. Tom Lillis of the Teddy Bears.”

“Free Throws,” Robert Morrison, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 25, 1953, page 3B.

A cartoonist for the St. Louis Post Dispatch did draw a number of cartoons of Bender when he first took the job in 1910, but none of them are labeled as a “Billiken.”



Although, in one of the pictures, he was sitting almost like  "Billiken." The image is a reference to his time coaching at the Haskell Indian Nations University.  He was quoted as saying it was more difficult to coach Indians than white players.  But he also dispelled the popular notions about Indian football players frequently mentioned in the press of the day (Jim Thorpe's team, the Carlisle Indians, were a college football powerhouse at the time), that their "native trickery" of made them naturally skilled at trick plays, or that they played a particularly rough and dirty style of game. 


St. Louis Post Dispatch, February 6, 1910, page 1S.

The reporter apparently never spoke with McNamara, but he did talk to another old-time sportswriter who had worked with the paper at the time. Willis Johnson claimed that the name had been adopted three years earlier, in 1907, which would have been impossible.

Willis Johnson, the veteran sports writer, places O’Connor’s invention as happening in 1907 - three years before Bender was head coach at St. Louis U.

“I remember very well, Billy O’Connor was the only one writing football at the time and he was the only one who made the post-season football trip to the west coast when St. Louis U. played post-season games,” Johnson said.

Willis was reminded that the record showed Eddie Cochems was coach in 1907 when the Blue and White, or the Jesuits as St. Louis athletes then were known, played and lost to Washington State and Multnomah A. C. of Portland in post-season games.

“Well, that’s when O’Connor wrote his story first naming them the Billikens,” Willis said. “The team had had a great season, then it had been soundly beaten in the post-season games. The boys were pretty well beat up and O’Connor, who always saw the sunny side of things, made up that story about the Billikens because that’s what they looked like to him.”

“Free Throws,” Robert Morrison, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 25, 1953, page 3B.

Johnson’s story is impossible, yet interesting. His story is impossible because Billiken statuettes were not sold until 1908. So-called “Billiken” characters had appeared in Canada West magazine several times in 1907, as early as May, but they looked more like cherubs than the finished Billiken statuette. So there would have been no occasion for O’Connor, or any other sportswriter, to refer to the team as “Billikens” in 1907.

Johnson’s story is interesting, because the opposing coach in one of the games St. Louis University played on the Pacific Northwest in 1907 was someone who would later be thought of as resembling a “Billiken” - Johnny Bender. Bender coached Washington State to an 11-0 victory over St. Louis University on Christmas Day, 1907, just over two years before taking the reigns of the Athletic Department of St. Louis University. St. Louis lost its next game, against the Multnomah Athletic Club of Portland on New Year’s Day, 11-6. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s accounts of both games are available online on Newspapers.com. Not one of those accounts refer to the team as “Billikens.”

So, although O’Connor may not have called them “Billikens” in 1907, and although McNamara may not have labeled his painting of a “Billiken” as Coach Bender, it seems likely that someone - anyone, perhaps more than one someone, recognized in Bender the features of a “Billiken.”

Does he look like a Billiken? You be the judge.



Source image from slu.edu.


Bender may also have had a hand in the naming of the University of Houston Cougars and the Kansas State Wildcats.



i  The Topeka State Journal (Kansas), April 17, 1909, page 2.

ii  The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 17, 1909, page 10.

iii  Note: The team had actually been called the “Blue and White,” not the “Bulldogs.”

iv  The St. Louis Star-Times, March 20, 1936, page 33.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Spitballs and Licorice - a History of the "Licorice Ball"


There was once a “freak” pitch called the “licorice ball.” It was banned from baseball (along with several other “freak” deliveries) even before the spitball.

The earliest reference to a “licorice ball” I’ve found is from 1910. The pitch is mentioned in a report on the goings-on in the Cactus League,i but is described as a “big league trick,” so it may have been used elsewhere earlier. The description of the pitch’s intended use here was different from how it was described several years later. In this case, it was s defensive act, to prevent the opposing pitcher from throwing an effective “spit ball.” This was at a time when the same ball was generally used throughout the entire game, so any alterations to the baseball by one pitcher could affect the ball’s use by the other.

It was the licorice ball versus the slipper elm [(“spit ball”)ii] Monday, in that Labor day game. . . . Knowing that he could not pitch his game in the condition that he was in, Anderson tried a big league trick to prevent Kane’s spits all over almost every ball he throws . . . .

To prevent this, Anderson went into the game with enough licorice to smear the mouths of a half hundred small boys. Before the second inning was over, the brand new balls looked like the big burnt wood bat that Powell, Douglas’s catcher, uses to such good advantage. Concealed in his rear pocket, it was applied freely to the ball in the hope that it would prevent Kane’s real spitters from breaking.

El Paso Herald, September 7, 1910, page 11.


When the President of the Canadian League inspected a “Licorice” ball a few years later, a description of its use was consistent with the earlier report.

London claimed that the Senators put licorice on the ball in order to spoil Bobby Hicks’ spitter. The ball used was inspected by President Fitzgerald and declared to be in good shape. He therefore notified the London club that their protest had been disallowed.

The Ottawa Journal, July 31, 1913, page 4.


Earlier that season, the “licorice ball” was spotted in the Pacific Coast League, in a game between Los Angeles and Sacramento. The catcher was thrown out of the game for “discoloring new balls with licorice.”iii That umpire was ahead of his time, because the major leagues would not ban the “licorice ball” for another seven years.

The “licorice ball” got a lot of press in 1915, and continuing until it was banned in the Major Leagues in 1920, one year before the now-more familiar “spit ball” was finally banned. This time the pitch was an offensive weapon, not defensive, using partial discoloration of the ball to confuse the batter’s recognition of the spin and speed of the pitch.


San Bernardino News (California), March 15, 1915, page 6.

The pitch first came into prominence in what was framed as what would today have become a “Twitter feud” or “beef” between Tom Seaton, pitcher for the Brooklyn Feds (Brooklyn’s Federal League team) and Hall-of-Famer, Christy Mathewson. Tom Seaton pitched the “licorice ball,” Christy Mathewson thought it was illegal.

Tom Seaton had better watch out or he will get into a controversy with Christy Mathewson. The latest winter league freak is the “licorice ball,” of which the star pitcher of the Brooklyn Feds is supposed to be the inventor. An acquaintance of Seaton has been spreading news about this wonderful idea of his. The first essential in the use of the “licorice ball” is to have a piece of hard, black licorice in the jowls. The pitcher must apply black saliva to one side of the ball, leaving the other side clean. He must throw it in such a way that the black revolves around the white and gives the batter’s eye alternate flashes of light and dark that will cause him to wink or blink and thereby fail to get an accurate gauge on where it is coming.

We retailed this yarn to Christy Mathewson the other day and the veteran pitcher of the Giants had one of the best laughs in his life.

“I believe Seaton is the same fellow who thought he could get away with an emeryless emery ball by scarring the horsehide with his hard fingernails,” said Big Six. “I wonder what his fingernails are made out of if they are strong enough for that. Perhaps his brain is composed of the same substance. But even he ought to know that the ‘licorice ball’ would be barred for the same reason that the emery ball is - defacing it. Even if it were allowed, the only effect I can imagine it having is putting the catcher’s glove on the bum.”

Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), January 16, 1915, page 7.


Spitball pitching isn’t a common practice in the big leagues any more, yet the fact stands out that the best pitchers in the leagues use the moistened twister. . . .

Tom Seaton, pitcher for the Brookfeds, has discovered the “licorice ball.”

“And lemme tell you,” asserted Tom when announcing his discovery, “that ball is going to be some fooler - some fooler, believe me.”

“What’s it like?”

“Well, first of all I get five cents worth of licorice. Then I put a chunk of it in my mouth. Pretty soon the saliva gets very black. Are you following me?”

“We’re ahead of you.”

“Now as soon as I get that licorice worked up nicely I smear half of the ball with the black saliva. Then I let loose with all my speed.”

“And then?”

“Well, when that ball whistles up toward the plate it’s sure to confuse the batter. As the ball whirls round and round the batter alternately sees black and white. That’ll cause him to pause, in fascination. While he’s in that pause bing! The ball has whistled over the plate for a strike.

“Great idea,” ain’t it” concluded Seaton.

The Allentown Democrat (Allentown, Pennsylvania), March 15, 1915, page 6.


Despite Tom Seaton’s big talk, he was not the first pitcher caught using the pitch in the big leagues that season. That honor went to “Smokey Joe” Wood, the Boston Red Sox’ “speed marvel.” In this instance, the pitch seems to have been more about making the ball difficult to see than Seaton’s plan of dazzling the batters. The umpires refused to act.

 Wood was facing the Yankees in what he finally developed into a 13-inning battle. The day was dark and as it got late it grew darker. To the grandstand and press box spectators it looked very much like Wood was doing as Donovan said - “spitting licorice juice on the ball to discolor it.” The pellet that the Smokey one hurled across the plate or thereabouts looked very dark - when you were able to see it at all. The Yankees didn’t have much to say individually. Few of them saw the ball, except when they were in the field.

Buffalo Evening News (Buffalo, New York), June 14, 1915, page 15.

Lansing State Journal (Lansing, Michigan), June 26, 1915, page 6.


Despite the pitch’s name, some people thought it may have been a different substance.

The licorice ball is the newest invention of pitchers. Bet it’s only the juice off a big chew of tobacco most of them carry around.

Evening Journal (Wilmington Delaware), May 29, 1917, page 8.


There were debates about whether it was legal or not, and whether it should be banned or not. One veteran umpire thought the pitch was A-OK. His description of the pitch and its effect on the ball seems to differ from some earlier descriptions.


Umpire Billy Evans, one of the real students of baseball, has both eyes and both ears open all the time. Billy knows what every pitcher in the American league has, or has not. He knows what kind of ball each batter is weak on and he even knows the bats. So it isn’t at all extraordinary that Billy knows all about the “Shine ball,” or as some of the dopesters call it, the “licorice ball.”

Of course, Cy Falkenberg, famous exponent of the emery ball, is using it. And Eddie Cicotte of the White Sox, has used it all season. Shore of the Red Sox and Bader of the same team, the latter one of the season’s phenoms, are using it, as are Dumont and Show of the Griffmen.

The shine ball can’t be barred, according to Evans. The pitcher just puts a high light on one side of it and it makes a lovely floater for the batter to miss. He doesn’t harm the cover of the ball and he doesn’t discolor it. It really brightens up the leather and takes off some of the dirt.

El Paso Herald (Texas), June 20, 1917, page 11.

But not everyone agreed. The American Association banned the pitch before the 1918 season.

The Buffalo Enquirer (Buffalo, New York), December 18, 1917, page 10.

The National and American Leagues took up the issue during the same off-season.

The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska), February 10, 1918, page 5.

But they would not act until the 1920 season, when they banned all “freak” pitching, although they gave the old-time spitballers a one-year reprieve.


Chicago, Feb. 9. - The elimination of all forms of freak pitching, including the spitball, the shiner, the emery ball, the licorice ball and other types of unfair slab work, was unanimously agreed upon by the rules committee of the two major leagues in joint session here this afternoon. Withe the single exception of the spitball, the new order of things takes effect at once.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania), February 10, 1920, page 11.

The Enid Daily Eagle (Enid, Oklahoma), February 10, 1920, page 4.


By 1926, the “licorice ball” was a distant memory. An old-time pitcher brought it up in the context of yet another pitching controversy - pitchers using resin.

The controversy about the use of resin by pitchers gives the old-time ball players a big laugh.

The so-called “emery ball” was used for years before it was condemned in a great blare of publicity for possessing freak attributes that even its users were not aware of. Ten years ago the same ball that was tossed out by the umpire at the beginning of a game was still in use when the ninth inning closed.

After the first inning it was as black as an undertaker’s derby. The pitcher and infielders had changed its color by a mixture of tobacco juice, resin, licorice and dirt. On a dark day it was almost impossible to see. And still they had some pretty good hitters in those days. Delehanty, Burkett, McGraw, Chief Meyers, Larry Doyle, LaJoie, Honus Wagner and numerous others made quite a few base hits.

And today the ball has to be white as snow. If it has the slightest blemish or abrasion, it is tossed out. There must be an interesting difference in the baseball bills of the league today.

The Birmingham News (Birmingham, Alabama), March 30, 1926, page 20.



i  The Cactus League was an independent league in the American Southwest and Mexico. In 1910, the league included teams from Bisbee, Arizona, El Paso, Texas, Douglas, Arizona and Cananea, Mexico. “Cactus League Standing,” Bisbee Daily Review, May 17, 1910, page 8.

ii  “Slippery elm” was a tree bark, chewed by pitchers to increase salivation and, perhaps, increase the slipperiness of the spit on the ball. See, for example, The Pittsburgh Press, April 25, 1910, page 6 (“Walsh, master artist of the ‘spit ball,’ pitches it in the most common way. He uses a trifle of slippery elm bark in his mouth and moistens a spot an inch square between the seams of the ball. His thumb he clinches tightly lengthwise on the opposite seam and, swinging his arm straight overhand with terrific force, he drives the ball straight at the plate.”).

iii  The Tacoma Daily Ledger (Tacoma, Washington), April 13, 1913, page 29.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Cockshy, Aunt Sally, Roly Poly and Doll Racks - a Dodgy History of Carnival Throwing Games



“Professional Baby Doll Racks” advertisement, Wholesale Catalogue, N. Shure Co., Chicago, 1913. On the left is Shure’s No. 118 Baby Doll Rack; on the right, No. 99, the “Chicago Special.”i


The history of carnival throwing games includes numerous now-socially unacceptable, racist and frequently dangerous games. But the dangers of those games are frequently exaggerated or misunderstood. A comment made in Ms. Magazine, for example, is absolutely untrue.

In the late 19th century, nearly every city had a carnival with a game . . . in which white revelers paid to throw baseballs, or rocks, at a Black man’s head.

“How America Bought and Sold Racism, and Why it Still Matters,” Lisa Hix, Ms. Magazine (msmagaine.com), November 24, 2015.ii


Many people did pay to throw balls at the head of so-called “African Dodgers,” and baseballs were apparently sometimes used; but softer balls were also frequently, and some “dodgers” wore head protection. And the people being thrown at were not kidnapped; they were willing participants, adults or teenagers (who were a greater part of the workforce at the time) who performed the job for pay. Also, there is no record anywhere of anyone paying to throw rocks at anyone’s head, or anyone being paid to let people throw rocks at their head.

Although most “dodgers” were black men, many “African dodgers” were white men in blackface. Complicating the matter, some writers confuse references to completely safe games with references to a more dangerous game that sometimes shared the same name. And in evaluating the overall danger of the game as generally played, they fail to note that many of the reported injuries were caused by bad people cheating the game to intentionally do harm, and not through the inherent dangers of regular gameplay.

The unsavory history of carnival throwing games did not start with racist-named names in the United States. The earliest game with a race-specific target (inanimate, not live) came out of England. And long before humans were placed in danger as targets of carnival games, roosters were beaten to death for sport on Shrove Tuesday.

I have written before about the history of the dunk tank and its more dangerous, immediate predecessor, the “African Dodger.”iii An “African Dodger” (generally black or in blackface) stuck his head through a sheet and dodged balls thrown at his head. Dunk tanks were a progressive-era improvement over the “dodger,” in which striking a mechanical target would drop a man from his seat into a tank of water. Early dunk tanks, in keeping with the “African Dodger” tradition, were generally staffed with black men or white men in blackface, and marketed as the “African Dip.” Some early dunk tanks were staffed with women and marketed as “Sappho Dips,” which promised a different kind of thrill.

Both “African Dodger” and “African Dip” were sometimes referred to as “N[-word] Baby” or “Hit the N[-word] Baby,” although that name was more commonly associated with (and likely borrowed from) the earlier carnival game of “doll racks.” In that game, now commonly known as “Carnival Punks” or “Knock Down Dolls,” the targets are figures or “dolls,” arranged on racks. Customers threw balls at them to knock them down.

The ambiguity of the three different games being referred to, on occasion, by the same name, has resulted in some confusion in commentary about the games by writers not familiar all of the games, names and their history.iv The word “babies,” in the name of the game itself, has also caused confusion. Some writers wonder whether infant human babies were, in fact, used as targets for baseball-throwing carnival goers.v And some less-cautious writers (particularly on social media) repeat, as absolute fact, that actual human babies were used as targets for baseball-throwing carnival-goers. That suggestion is absolutely false. 

People making those mistakes appear to have overlooked the earlier history of doll rack “N[-word] Babies, and its influence on the alternate name later used for “African Dodgers” and the “African Dip.” Doll racks were commonly (but not exclusively) known as “N[-word] Babies” as early as 1880, at about the same time as the earliest references to “African Dodgers” appeared in print. “African Dodgers,” however, were not regularly referred to as “Hit the N[-word] Baby” (or the like), until after 1910.

The alternative name for “dodgers” and “dips” appears to have been borrowed from the doll rack game. The doll rack game, in turn, took the name from children’s black baby dolls, which were commonly called, “N[-word] Babies.” Despite the name, the dolls on the doll racks were not necessarily black, and were frequently white or of diverse colors. And surprisingly, perhaps, their namesake, black baby dolls, were a popular plaything for white children, appearing frequently in advertisements for Christmas gifts and mentioned in published letters to Santa Claus.

The name, “N[-word] Babies,” may also have been borrowed from an earlier ball-game, which involved throwing balls (sometimes baseballs, sometimes something softer) at people. The game was a children’s playground game, variously known as “hat ball,” “roly poly” or “N[-word Babies.” The “babies” in these games, however ,were not the person being thrown at, but tokens used to keep score. And the people being thrown at were not generally black or in blackface; they were any of the other playmates or classmates playing the game.


Handbook for Scoutmasters, a Manual of Leadership, Boy Scouts of America, Sixth Imprint, 1924, page 334.


Although generally a children’s game, “hat ball” or “roly poly” was also played on college campuses, most famously at Yale. Yale Seniors played the game so regularly, that plans to erect a statue in the middle of their “N[-word] Babies” grounds caused a mostly peaceful riot and little bit of arson.


"Why didn't he get into a game of N[-word] Baby?"  The Yale Record 1898.

The doll rack may have originated in Italy as early as 1877, before being introduced in the United States by 1878, where it became known as “N[-word] Babies” as early as 1880. But the doll rack game was not the first game in which people threw things at a figure intended to represent a black person. That dubious distinction belongs to a game that originated in England, not the United States - “Aunt Sally.”

“Aunt Sally” involved throwing sticks or cudgels at a life-sized wooden “head.” The purpose of the game was not to hit the head, but to break a clay pipe inserted into an opening at the “mouth” of the head. The name of the game may have been borrowed from the title of a popular song, which had recently been performed in England by American blackface minstrels.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 28, 1905, part 5, page 6.

Appearing on the scene decades before the earliest references to the “African Dodger” game (1858, 1881), it is possible that this game, with an inanimate head, may have inspired the later game with a live human head. Although most descriptions of the game describe the “head” on a stationary pole or post, an early description of the game as played in the United States describes a mechanism to move the head.

A wooden figure representing a very black negro woman, with a profusion of woolly hair, a jaunty straw hat, very red lips, and a short pipe stuck in her mouth. She swings or bows on a pivot by means of a string under her smock, which a man at ten yards distance pulls. 

Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania), August 4, 1868, page 2.


“Aunt Sally” was based on an earlier game, “cockshy” or “knock-em-down,” in which people won prizes by throwing sticks at knick-knacks or coins balanced atop a stick or pole stuck into a hole the ground. Throwers won the item if they knocked the item off the stick, and far enough away from the base of the stick to land outside of the hole the stick was in.


John Doyle, “A Fair Game,” HB Sketches No. 403, 1835.vi

“Cock-shy” was an enlightenment-era improvement over a predecessor, which had been banned as inhumane and pointlessly cruel. The earlier game went by a literal, descriptive name, which explains the name of “Cock-shy” - “Throwing at Cocks” or “Shying at Cocks,” which was precisely what it sounds like, namely throwing sticks or cudgels at roosters. The “game” was perhaps even less sporting than what one might expect - the birds were tied to a stake, or otherwise restrained from movement, and thrown at until dead. In some versions of the game, once the bird was maimed or dead, they put it in a basket, and people took turns trying to knock the bird out of the basket - a kind of live pinata. The winner took the bird home for Shrove Tuesday dinner.

“Throwing at cocks” was also widely disdained, the target of religious sermons and legal crusades. The game was the subject of an early anti-animal cruelty campaign, and an early victory for activists. It was banned almost everywhere by 1800.

Another dangerous game, falling somewhere between “throwing at cocks” and “cockshy,” was local to Leicester, England. On Shrove Tuesday, a few designated “Whipping Toms” would attack anyone crossing a particular square. Townspeople in the square defended themselves with sticks - FUN(?)!!! Surprisingly, perhaps, “Whipping Toms” was considered a progressive improvement over “throwing at cocks”; people, at least, had the choice to play along and could fight back.


“Throwing at Cocks”



“Cocke a doodle doe, ‘tis the bravest Game,

Takes a Cocke from his Dame,

  And binds him to a stake,

How he struts, how he throwes,

How he swaggers, how he crowes,

  As if the day newly brake.


How his Mistress cackles

thus to find him in shackles,

  And tyed to a packe-thread garter.

Oh the Bears and the Bulls

Are but corpulent gulls

  To the valiant Shrove-tide Martyre.”

John Brand, Observations on Popular Antiquities, Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of Our Vulgar Customs, Ceremonies, and Superstitions, Volume 1, London, R. C. and J. Rivington, 1813, page 68 (citing, “Men-Miracles, with other Poems, by M. Lluellin, Student of Christ-church, Oxon,” 12 mo. Lond. 1679, p 48).


“Throwing (or “shying”) at Cocks” was known in England as early as the 1640s, where it was widely played on Shrove Tuesday, the last day of the Christian calendar before Lent. Lent is a period of relative abstinence, so it was natural to have a day of excess before it started. In the French tradition, Shrove Tuesday coincides with the end of Mardi Gras, literally, “Fat Tuesday” in French. The English would also fatten up by eating pancakes, another ancient Shrove Tuesday tradition.

They still celebrate Shrove Tuesday in England as “Pancake Day,” but long ago abandoned the “throwing at cocks” to mark the day. Efforts to ban the practice were underway by the mid-1700s.


Proverbs xii. 10.

A righteous Man regardeth the Life of his Beast.

Clemency to Brute Creatures, the Duty asserted in this Proverb, is what the present Season in particular calls upon us to enforce. For, besides that the First Lesson for this Morning’s Service doth evidently suggest it to us, the Custom which obtains among the lower sorts of our Countrymen of torturing one part of the Brute Creation on Shrove-Tuesdays, a Custom which can never be reflected on by any humane Person without Horror . . . .

[T]here is one kind of [Cruelty] so extraordinarily shocking, and so peculiarly English, that it is in a very high Degree shameful to us, and cries aloud for particular Reprehension. It is our Cruelty to Cocks upon Shrove-Tuesdays.

Clemency to Brutes, the Substance of Two Sermons Preached on a Shrove-Sunday, With Particular View to Dissuade from that Species of Cruelty Annually Practiced in England, the Throwing at Cocks, London, R. and J. Dodsley, 1761, page 1.


The ingenious artist, Hogarth, has satirized this barbarity in the first of the prints called the Four Stages of Cruelty. Trusler’s description is as follows: “We have several groupes of Boys at their different barbarous diversions; one is throwing at a Cock, the universal Shrove-tide amusement, beating the harmless feathered animal to jelly.”

Brand, Observations on Popular Antiquities, Volume 1, page 67.


William Hogarth, “The First Stage of Cruelty - Children Torturing Animals,” 1751. Wikimedia Commons.vii

One popular account of the origin of the practice is that it was to punish roosters for spoiling a Saxon revolt against their Danish overlords.

When the Danes were masters of England, and lorded it over the natives of the island, the inhabitants of a certain great city, grown weary of their slavery, had form’d a secret conspiracy, to murder their masters in one bloody night, and twelve men had undertaken to enter the town house by a stratagem, and seizing the arms, surprize the guard which kept it; at which time their fellows, upon a signal given, were to come out of their houses and murder all opposers: but when they were putting it in execution, the unusual crowing and fluttering of the cocks, about the place they attempted to enter at, discover’d their design, upon which the Danes became so inrag’d, that they doubled their cruelty and us’d them with more severity than ever: soon after they forced from the Danish yoak, and to revenge themselves on the cocks, for the misfortune they involv’d them in, instituted this custom of knocking them on the head, on Shrove-Tuesday, the day on which it happen’d; this sport, tho’ at first only practis’d in one city, in process of time became a natural divertisement, and has continued ever since the Danes first lost this island.

The British Apollo, Volume 1, 3d Edition, London, Theodore Sanders, 1726, page 16.


Another theory held that the roosters were being punished for St. Peter’s crime of denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed (Luke 22:54-62).

Alluding to these cruelties, Sir Charles Sedley, in an epigram on a cock, says: -


“May’st thou be punished for St. Peter’s crime,

“And on Shrove Tuesday perish in thy prime.”

The Taunton Courier (Taunton, England), February 29, 1832, page 7.


The game was also known (and banned) in England’s North American colonies. The lawmakers of Charleston, South Carolina, however, may have missed the irony of the selective punishment of some types of people for drumming without a permit, by means more inhumane than the banned practice of throwing at cocks.

Enacted, no person to throw sticks at cocks or otherwise . . . on forfeiture of twenty shillings for every offense. And no negro to beat any drum on holidays or otherwise, without permission of some officer, on pain of whipping.

The South-Carolina Gazette (Charleston, South Carolina), July 2, 1750, page 7.


Our British overlords in Philadelphia also banned the annual war against Roosters, while at the same time conscripting idlers into military service against the French, during the French and Indian War.

This day being Shrove-Tuesday, the Constables of the several wards of this city . . . went round their different wards, to prevent that barbarous Custom of throwing at Cocks, and picked up several loose and idle Persons, which they though might employ their time much better by throwing at the great french Cock in America.

Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), May 12, 1757, page 3.


The closing line of that article, about throwing at the great “french Cock in America,” may be a pun, of sorts, on the words “Gaul” (France) and Gallus, the Latin word for rooster. The same pun may lie at the heart of a third traditional explanation of the origin of the sport, one based on the traditional enmity between England and France.

A Cock has the misfortune to be called in Latin by the same word which signifies a Frenchman. “In our wars with France, in former ages, our ingenious forefathers,” says he, “invented this embelmatical way of expression their derision of, and resentment towards that nation; and poor Monsieur at the stake was pelted by Men and Boys in a very rough and hostile manner.”

Brand, Observations on Popular Antiquities, Volume 1, page 68 (citing, Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. vii. for Jan. 1737, p. 6).

Writing in 1791, John Brand described the preparation and gameplay in detail, at least as once practiced in Heston, Middlesex. It involved training the bird, and generated profit for the bird owner.

The owner of the Cock trains his bird for some time before Shrove Tuesday, and throws a stick at him himself, in order to prepare him for the fatal day, by accustoming him to watch the threatened danger, and, by springing aside, avoid the fatal blow. He holds the poor victim on the spot marked out, by a cord fixed to his leg, at the distance of nine or ten yards, so as to be out of the way of the stick himself. Another spot is marked, at the distance of twenty-two yards, for the person who throws to stand upon. He has three shys, or throws, for two pence, and wins the Cock if he can knock him down and run up and catch him before the bird recovers his legs. The inhuman pastime does not end with the Cock’s life, for when killed it is put into a hat, and won as second time by the person who can strike it out. Broomsticks are generally used to shy with. The Cock, if well trained, eludes the blows of his cruel persecutors for a long time, and thereby clears to his master a considerable sum of money.

Brand, Observations on Popular Antiquities, Volume 1, page 67.

The “game” was subject of widespread derision, and universally banned (officially) before the end of the 19th Century.

A man of kindness to his beast is kind,

And brutal actions show a brutal mind;

Remember! He who made thee, made the brute,

Who gave thee speech and reason, formed him mute.

He can’t complain, but God’s all-seeing eye

Beholds thy cruelty: - He hears his cry.

He was design’d thy servant, not thy drudge;

And know - that his Creator is thy Judge.

The Derby Mercury (Derby, England), February 5, 1845, page 3.


But nature abhors a vacuum, and when one throwing game is banned, another emerges to take its place. The town of Leicester, England abolished “throwing at cocks on Shrove Tuesday” in 1784. They replaced it with a new tradition that was only cruel to humans - the “Whipping Toms.” It may have been less “humane,” in that it endangered humans instead of fowl, but it may have seemed more sporting, as at least humans could fight back.

Each Shrove Tuesday, three men were designated as “Whipping Toms” and armed with small coaching whips. The “Whipping Toms” were accompanied by three bell ringers, who would ring their bells incessantly. A mob of citizens, armed with sticks, clubs or (in some descriptions of the event) with hurling or field hockey sticks, would try to stop the bell ringers from ringing their bells; the “Whipping Toms” defended the bell ringers - hilarity ensued.

By some accounts, the “Whipping Toms” game was started to replace the banned game of “throwing at cocks.”

Mr. R. Harris said that the only account he recollected having heard in his youth was that the present custom was substituted for the more barbarous one of cock-fighting and throwing at cocks.

The Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), January 4, 1840, page 2.


Other theories included, that the “Lord of the Castle” in “ancient times” had been in the habit of clearing out the square at a certain time of day, that it was done to “prevent the Newarke from becoming a highway,” by closing the gates once a year to demonstrate that the public had no right to a thoroughfare, or that it arose from ridicule of the “monkish custom” of self-flagellation.viii

A fourth theory suggested it was intended to replace a different kind of rooster-torturing game - a sort of live-pinata, in which the goal was to strike the caged bird; the “winner” got took the bird home for dinner.

A Correspondent supposes the vulgar sport practiced annually on Shrove Tuesday in the Newark, to have had its origin in the following barbarous custom, which was formerly practised at Wakes, Horse Races, and Fairs in this County. “A cock being tied or fastened into a hat or basket, half a dozen carters, blindfolded, and armed with their cart whips, were placed round it, who, after being turned thrice about, began to whip the cock, which if any one struck so as to make it cry out, it became his property. The joke was, that instead of whipping the cock, they flogged each other heartily.

Leicester Chronicle (Leicester, England), March 4, 1815, page 4.

With these cruel and dangerous games banned everywhere, they were replaced with games requiring more skill, but bearing a name drawn from its brutal forerunner - “Cockshy” or, less poetically, “knock-em-down.”


“Cockshy” or “Knock-em-Down.”

COCKSHY, a game at fairs and races, where trinkets are set upon sticks, and for one penny three throws at them are accorded, the thrower keeping whatever he knocks off. From the ancient game of throwing or “shying” at live cocks.

John Camden Hotten, A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words, 2nd Edition, London, John Camden Hotten, 1860, page 119.


In the game of “Cockshy” or “Knock-em-Down,” contestants threw sticks or cudgels at knick-knacks or coins balanced atop a stick or pole stuck into the ground. In some descriptions of the game, the pole on which the items are placed is stuck into the ground in the middle of a hole or depression, and the item is only won if the thing balanced on top falls outside of the hole. It was not enough to knock it off the top, the thrower had to impart enough energy to the thing so that it fell sufficiently far from the pole.

H. B.’s Caricatures. - In the midst of the gloom of November, with bad news coming “thick as hail” upon us, three new sketches of the great artist appear, to counterbalance the general mass of hill, and make us laugh in spite of chartism, American insolvency, and the melbourne cabinet. . . .

No. 620 is a scene at a fair; the amusement is that species of “cock-shy” which rewards the practitioner with a wooden pear or a tin snuff-box, in exchange for a great many ineffectual pennyworths of timber. Lord Melbourne, backed by Lord John Russell, is doing his best, with a heavy stick with O’Connell’s delicate features carved on the knob, to knock down a chosen object, the church; special instructions are given him by his friend not to touch the cap of liberty, which is planted in front of it. The Queen is looking on, and admits that her venture on the issue is a heavy one - no less than a CROWN; while Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg generously offers to stand HALF THE STAKE. The master of the sticks, who is able to put up a church to be shyed at, is, of course, O’Connell.

The Blackburn Standard (Blackburn, England), November 13, 1839, page 4.


John Doyle, “Another Heavy Blow,” HB Sketches No. 620, 1839.ix

Every Little Boy’s Book, a Complete Cyclopaedia of In and Outdoor Games With and Without Toys, London, Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1864, page 118.

Unlike “throwing at cocks” and “Whipping Toms,” “cock-shy” was not generally limited to Shrove Tuesday. It was widely played at fairs and race tracks at any time of year. And although it was generally portrayed as a low form of entertainment, that didn’t stop some members of the aristocracy from playing the game.

Lord Brougham on the Epsom Race Course. -

The Sunday Times says, “Amongst the celebrated characters we encountered on strolling along the course was Lord Brougham, with his pocket handkerchief full of knick-knacks that he had knocked over playing at ‘cockshy.’

The Leeds Mercury (Leeds, England), June 8, 1850, page 12.


Another aristocrat, the Duke of Beaufort, helped make a later variant of “cockshy” famous.


“Aunt Sally”


Punch, December 25, 1858, page 254.

An early reference to a doll rack game (1877) described it as, “a modification of Aunt Sally.” “Aunt Sally” was a modification of “cockshy,” but instead of knocking something off a stick, the goal was to break a clay tobacco pipe stuck in the mouth of a wooden head. The game first came came into widespread attention in the press following the arrest of an aristocrat for throwing a stick at another race patron.

The Duke of Beaufort and “Aunt Sally.”

The case of “Weatherley v. the Duke of Beaufort” (tried in the Queen’s Bench on Monday) presents features of interest and amusement to persons in the habit of frequenting race-courses, while at the same moment the proceedings will not be without a material degree of usefulness. . . .

The story of “Aunt Sally” is simple enough, and may be told in a few sentences. Last Brighton races his Grace the Duke of Beaufort was beguiling himself with a game which enjoys much popularity with the race-going multitude. The pastime of “Aunt Sally” is played in this wise: - A wooden head, similar to a barber’s block, is stuck on a thin crowbar about four feet high, and at that portion of the face of the block which should be adorned by the nasal organ there is a small hole. “Nature hates a vacuum,” and to obviate the vacuity in the head of the doll, the spirited proprietor of “Aunt Sally” inserts the bowl end of a pipe, and emulous persons desirous of breaking “Aunt Sally’s” extempore nose are permitted to have so many “shies” at a certain distance for a stated charge. On every occasion on which the imaginary nose of “Aunt Sally” is broken by the player he is rewarded by a shilling from the pocket of the proprietor of the amusing device.

Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, December 16, 1858, page 7.

The Duke was arrested at the race for throwing sticks at a man whose horse bumped into the Duke while he was playing “Aunt Sally.” The Duke was reportedly a crack shot with the sticks, and injured the man. The victim of the hurling was also arrested for cursing at the Duke. They were both found guilty, the victim receiving a small fine for cursing, and the Duke a large fine for injuring Mr. Weatherley.

The game was sufficiently established by the mid-1860s to merit inclusion in a book of children’s games.



This amusing game is of a very simple character, consisting essentially in throwing at a small object. Aunt Sally herself is composed of a head and bust cut out of a solid block of wood, and generally carved with negro features, and painted black. In the middle of her nose, or between her lips, a hole is bored, into which is stuck a short pipe. To break it is the object of the game. An iron rod serves to support the wooden figure at a proper elevation from the ground; and when in gala costume, Aunt Sally is usually arrayed in a mob cap and a petticoat.

Every Little Boy’s Book, a Complete Cyclopaedia of In and Outdoor Games With and Without Toys, London, Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1864, page 118.

The rules set out in some descriptions of the game make it even more difficult, with players trying to break the pipe without hitting the head.

Who or what is “Aunt Sally?” A black doll or lay figure, white pipe in mouth, with whom a game, much in vogue at county fairs and country races in England, is played. The sport consists in throwing sticks, some eighteen inches long and two thick, at “Aunt Sally’s” pipe, which, according to the Duke of Beaufort, is supposed, by what figure or rhetoric we are not informed, to be the old lady’s nose. The effort of the player is to knock the pipe out of “Aunt Sally’s” mouth without touching her.

The New York Tribune, January 6, 1859, page 4.

“Aunt Sally” may refer to the heroine of a song lyric performed by American blackface minstrel shows on the English stage.

The Ethiopian Serenaders are not really and truly genuine black men, but only gentlemen in black - that is to say, they smear their faces with dirt, wear woollen wigs, and talk the gibberish, we presume, of the unfortunate negro class in the American states. The titles of some of the pieces executed by these imitation blacks, “Come, darkies, sing,” “The old jawbone,” “My old aunt Sally,” &c., are sufficiently significant of the character.

Birmingham Journal (Birmingham, England), April 18, 1846, page 3.


“Aunt Sally” may have become a stock character, in the same vein as “Aunt Jemima,” who had also been the character in an old minstrel song.

Take my advice, and try the strength

Of Aunt Jemima’s plaster;

Sheepskin and beeswax

Make this awful plaster;

The more you try to take it off,

The more it sticks the faster.

“Aunt Jemima’s Plaster,” The Punch Songster, Richmond, Virginia, Punch Office, 1864.


In 1890, one year after the Pearl Milling Co. introduced its “Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour,” Burns’ Oat Mills introduced a rival pancake mix, “Aunt Sally’s Pancake Flour” (the pancake batter may have looked like the plaster in the song). Presumably, “Aunt Sally” was understood at the time to be someone similar to “Aunt Jemima.”


 The Muncie Daily Herald (Muncie, Indiana), April 26, 1897, page 1.

“Aunt Sally” may also have become a stock character on the stage. Six decades later, when a black comedian named Lew Booker played a character named “Aunt Mandy,” his performance was referred to as “getting over Sal,” an expression perhaps derived from the “Aunt Sally” character. A few years later, however, “Getting over Sal” became a popular ragtime tune, so perhaps this item referred to the music or dance, more than a stock character.


The New York Age, April 27, 1911, page 6.

In any case, the lyrics to the old minstrel song, “My Old Aunt Sally,” even relate, to some extent, to the game play. Whereas, in the game, Aunt Sally dodgers sticks thrown at her pipe, in the song, Aunt Sally dodges an attacking animal (bull or dog).

I gib her a piece ob my advice, to hunt some udder lodgin,

De bull kept gwine round de stump, an Sally kept a dodgin,

She jump a rod or two aside, you orter seen her bound it,

If de bull ain’t broke de stump, he still is gwine round it. . . .

Music of the Ethiopian Serenaders, Nine Songs and a Set of Cotillions, New York, E. Ferrett & Co., 1845.


An alternate version of the lyrics has Aunt Sally running around the stump to dodge a dog, instead of a bull.

I gab her a piece ob my advice, to hunt some udder lodgin;

De dog kept gwine roun’ de stump, An Sal she kept a dodgin’,

She jump’d a rod or two aside, you ought to seen her bound it,

An if de dog ain’t lost his breath, he still is runnin’ roun’ it. . . .

Lloyd’s Song Book, London, E. Lloyd, 1847, page 42.

Although most descriptions of the game refer to the wooden head placed on a rigid stick or pole, some versions of the game involved a moving, dodging head, making the gameplay more difficult, but more similar to the lyrics of the song.

The Latest. - The newest amusement is a game called Aunt Sally and the wooden pins. Those who have been to the Derby races in England will understand this game. . . .

A wooden figure representing a very black negro woman, with a profusion of woolly hair, a jaunty straw hat, very red lips, and a short pipe stuck in her mouth. She swings or bows on a pivot by means of a string under her smock, which a man at ten yards distance pulls. The game is to knock the pipe out of Aunt Sally’s by throwing the wooden pins at it from a fixed distance while the man with the strings keeps her in a bowing motion. The candidates for this honor pay a fee, of course, for the trial, and receive a prize if they succeed. The fun of the thing is that no one hits the pipe and everybody laughs and thinks he can.

Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania), August 4, 1868, page 2.

Coincidentally, the year before the Duke of Beaufort put “Aunt Sally” in the headlines, a story told by a recently emancipated enslaved woman known may have presaged the game. Her son had purchased her freedom out of slavery in Alabama and brought her to New York, where she was interviewed. She was known as “Aunt Sally,” and her “mistress” used to hit her on the head with a stick.


An intelligent coloured clergyman from the West, a few weeks since, was seeking means in New York to buy his mother out of slavery in Alabama. Three hundred dollars was the price, and a number of persons subscribed each a little, so that he soon raised the money. . . .

She is a tall person, though now bent a little, jet black, of about sixty years of age, with a most intelligent, expressive face, and a large benevolent pair of spectacles over her great nose. She talks without hardly a trace of negro accent - our friend, Mr, Godkin, of the Daily News, who has just been in the South, says, with a much better accent than the Southern whites. . . .

. . . “Did your mistress whip you?”

“Oh, yes; she’d hit me with a stick of wood on the head.”

The Wells Journal (Wells, England), April 25, 1857, page 4.

The game, however, may have been a decade older, so any similarity between her story and the “Aunt Sally” game may have been mere coincidence. In an article published shortly after the Duke of Beaufort’s run-in with the law, a writer recalled an incident, eleven years earlier, in which a man enlisted the “sympathetic appreciation” of a group of “Wigan colliers” because he had, ”‘propelled the bludgeon’ at Aunt Sally’s pipe, knocking it out almost every time.” If the recollection is true, the game had been going on since at least 1846, the same year the “Ethiopian Serenaders” came to England.

The original Ethiopian Serenaders . . . will have the honour of appearing for the first time in Europe on the above evening at the Hanover-square Rooms, in one of their inimitable entertainments.

The Morning Post (London), January 20, 1846, page 1.

Their songs included, “Old Dan Tucker,” “Lucy Neal,” “Lucy Long,” “My Old Aunt Sally,” and “Dis Ni--ar’s Journey to New York.”x They and other minstrel groups performed the song in Britain for several years, and it was published as sheet music. In 1849, the Queen’s Theatre, London, staged a “Black Ballet, entitled, ‘Old Aunt Sally; or, Buffalo Girls, can’t you come out to-night?’”xi

Early references to the “Aunt Sally” game are all from England, or refer to the game being played in England. That changed in the mid-1860s. In April of 1866, the New York Times described the game as played in London on Good Friday.

The streets are full, the omnibuses crowded; there are railway excursions, the Crystal Palace is thronged - forty or fifty thousand were there yesterday - and multitudes gather in the parks and play kiss in the ring or have a shie at Old Aunt Sally . . . . Aunt Sally is a big black doll on a stick, with a pipe in her mouth, and an orange or some toy for a prize, which you win by hitting her with a stick if you are lucky.

New York Times, April 16, 1866, page 1.

The game was available for purchase in Brooklyn by July of the same year.


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 19, 1866, page 2.

A couple years later, the Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania) described the “newest amusement” from England, played with a moving head that “swings or bows on a pivot by means of a string under her smock.xii Descriptions of the game, and instructions on how to build an “Aunt Sally,” appeared in print in the United States on occasion over the next several decades, although it does not seem to have ever become as popular or ubiquitous as “doll racks,” “African Dodgers” and “African Dips” would later become.


The United Opinion (Bradford, Vermont), September 2, 1887, page 3.


Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 28, 1905, part 5, page 6.

 In some cases, the game was apparently recast as a man with a different name.

“SAMBO” 5 Shots for 1 cent. Break the pipe and get a prize.

“The County Fair,” St. Nicholas (children’s magazine), Volume 31, Number 11, September 1904, page 1003.

Although it was the first game involving throwing things at a figure representing a black person, “Aunt Sally” would be eclipsed by the more popular carnival games; “Doll Rack” (1878), “African Dodger” (by 1881) and “African Dip” (1910). The doll-rack game would become widely known as “N[-word] Baby,” and both “African Dodger” and the “African Dip” would occasionally be referred to as “N[-word] Baby.” Those games, however, would not be the first games to be known by that name. An earlier game widely known by that name was a children’s playground game, also referred to as “Hat Ball” or “Roly Poly.”


“Hat Ball” or “Roly Poly”


“N[-word] Baby” in Ancient Rome; hitherto supposed to be the stoning of Stephen, the Martyr.

The Yale Record, Volume 17, Number 14, May 11, 1888, page 158.

“Hat Ball” and “Roly Poly” were forms of dodgeball, typically played with a baseball, although sometimes something softer, like a rubber ball or tennis ball. The players all started at a central location. In “Hat Ball,” the central location was a group of hats, one belonging to each player; in “Roly Poly,” a group of holes in the ground, one for each player.


"'Now, look out, look out! Freddy,' said Watts, as he bent over the row of hats."

"Hat Ball," Juliana Conover, The Churchman, Volume 71, Number 6, February 8, 1896, page 192.

Play started with someone tossing (hat ball) or rolling (roly poly) the ball into one of the hats/holes. The person whose hat/hole the ball landed rush to retrieve the ball and threw it at one of the other players. The other players ran away, trying to avoid being hit. The person hit with the ball received a strike against them, or, if the person throwing the ball failed to hit anyone, they would receive a strike.


Handbook for Scoutmasters, a Manual of Leadership, Sixth Imprint, Boy Scouts of America, 1924, page 334.

A marker or token, for example a stone or stick, was placed in each player’s hat/hole for each strike against them in the game.

The scoring stones placed in the holes are often named “Babies.” In Austria they are similarly called Kinder (children).

John D. Champlin, The Young Folks’ Cyclopaedia of Games and Sports, Second Edition, Revised, New York, 1899, page 586.


When a player reached a certain number of markers in their hat/hole, they were punished by standing against a wall, and letting every other player throw the ball at them in turn.


For missing a human target the unlucky hole-owner would have a ‘n[-word] baby’ - a pebble - put in the hole. The game would go on until one of the players had ten ‘n[-word] babies’ in his hole. Then he was the real victim and the real fun would begin.

The victim was compelled to fold his arms, on a level with his head, against the brick wall of a house abutting on the lot, and his face buried in his arms. The other players, standing off about 10 or 15 feet distant from the human target, would in turn pitch the hard rubber ball at the victim with might and main, endeavoring to give him a good soak in the back. When all the players had had a whack at the fellow against the wall the rolling of the ball into the holes was resumed.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 9, 1910, Magazine Section, page 2.


Hat ball could be dangerous.


The Allentown Leader (Allentown, Pennsylvania), June 20, 1900, page 6.


At least one boy was killed while playing “roly poly”; not from being hit by the ball, but for reasons more closely related to the reason the Los Angeles Dodgers are called the “Dodgers”xiii - he was run over by a trolley.


The lad, with several playmates, . . . were playing roly-poly on Sprague avenue, in front of Ayers & Rogers’ livery stable. The ball fell in a hole and the owner of that hole had a right to “pet” the ball at the others. Glynn and Gardner plunged across the trolley tracks, not seeing the car right upon them. Gardner then saw the danger and shouted to Glynn to look out, and Glynn stopped and looked the wrong way.

Middletown Daily Argus (Middletown, New York), May 5, 1898, page 5.

Unlike games sometimes known as “N[-word] Baby,” the “N[-word] Babies” in this game were not people, dolls or mannequins, but the markers or tokens used to count the number of strikes against a player. And the people being thrown at were not necessarily black, but were their family, friends, playmates, classmates, and sometimes (“accidentally”) their teachers.


“The Boys Took a Mischievous Delight in ‘Accidentally’ Soaking the Schoolmaster.” 

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 9, 1910, Magazine Section, page 2.


“Peaches” was again the stellar target, as he was the first one to get three “n[-word] babies.” Scout James Hafer was also represented on the “n[-word] baby” roll of honor, he being about the second one to get three “black chiles.” . . . [T]hey make very good targets.

The Birmingham News (Birmingham, Alabama), July 18, 1926, Feature Section, page 7.


Sticks and stones being generally dark in color, the name was likely a reference to a small, black baby. The expression, “n[-word] baby” was commonly used to refer to a black babies, as illustrated in the caption of this illustration to a macabre short story, in which a medical student steals a baby from his medical school cadaver room so he can study in his room, but is discovered when he drops it on the street.

"Stealing a Baby," Madison Tensas, M. D., The Louisiana Swamp Doctor and Other Sketches, Philadelphia, T. B. Peterson & Brothers, c1881, page 137.

Black dolls, generally referred to as “N[-word] Babies,” were popular playthings among white children at the time, frequently appearing in Christmas shopping advertisements and listed in children’s published letters to Santa. Playing off the popularity of black dolls among white children, a “humorous” anecdote, widely reprinted in 1885 and 1886, suggested that white dolls were similarly popular among black children.


“I don’t think them colored chil’n got much use fur them black n[-word] doll babies nohow. N[-word] chil’n ‘beeged to have white doll babies; you hear me speakin’, boss. I axed Lucindy what she want fur Christmus giff, an’ I say, ‘Want wun o’ them black dolls, chile?’ An’ she say, ‘No, no, mammy, dis chile don’ want no fool n[-word] baby.”

The Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), April 4, 1886, page 2 (from the Mobile Register (Alabama)).

“N[-word] Babies” would also become a common name for baby-shaped licorice candies. Rumors persist that Twizzlers’ candy “NIBS” is a shortened form of “NI--- Babies,” but that does not seem to be the case. See my earlier post, “Cocoa Nibs, Coffee Nibs, Licorice Nibs and His Royal Oriental Nibs - Racism and Licorice.”xiv

In some places and at some times, the name of game was transferred to the players at whom the ball was being thrown. But all of those references appeared at a time after the doll-rack version of “N[-word] Baby” had become widely known by that name, so the change in nomenclature may have been in imitation of that game.

Despite mostly being a children’s game, a version (or versions) of the game was famously played by students a Yale, where it was referred to as “Roly Poly,” “N[-word] Baby,” or, more poetically (in Latin), Niger Infans.

An early reference to “roly poly” in a Yale publication mentioned that a teacher at nearby Bethany, Connecticut had described “graphically the rules and attractions of roly-poly to an attentive audience.”xv The December 1877 issue of the Yale Record announced that, “a few fortunate Seniors got out yesterday. ‘N[-word] baby’ and ‘foot-and-a-half’ [another ball game] again.”xvi On April 3, 1879, the Yale Daily News reported that, “Top-spinning, marbles and ‘n[-word] baby’ were resumed by the Seniors yesterday.”xvii In 1881, “According to the Yale News, ‘n[-word] babies,’ stilts and kites are the playthings of the seniors.’”xviii

Senior year fails to offer the student at Yale anything that is startling, and so he goes back to his early childhood for amusement. . . . he takes off his coat and plays “n[-word] baby” beneath the great elms of the campus from morning until dark. If “n[-word] baby” grows tiresome he plays “three cornered cat” or pitches marbles.

The Meriden Daily Republican (Meriden, Connecticut), April 1, 1895, page 3.

The traditional location of the game was in front of Durfee Hall.

For the first time this Spring the Seniors indulged in their traditional sport of “N[-word] Baby” in front of Durfee yesterday afternoon.

The Yale Daily News, March 5, 1886, page 3.

This cartoon of “N[-word] Baby in Ancient Rome,” from the Yale Record (1889), clearly represents Durfee Hall at Yale.


Durfee Hall, Yale University, around 1900.xix

In 1879, the Yale Record featured a mock “Classical Conversation” between Horatius and Virgilius. At one point, the dialogue turned to harpastum, an ancient Roman ball game.xx As the punchline of the piece, Virgilius responds, “Our ancestors had a game which they called niger infans. Do you know the rules and philosophy of that game?”xxi

In 1886, the New York Times reported that the faculty at Yale were cracking down on all sorts of Senior sports on campus, at least those played on campus before 4:00 PM. The accompanying description of the game suggests it was different at that time from the game described elsewhere.

By the new decree no student while on the campus shall indulge in “n[-word] baby,” bench tennis, marbles, or any similar game, except after 4 P. M. . . .

“N[-word] baby” is the pastime of pastimes. It is particularly sacred to Seniors, many of whom make a scientific study of its mysteries. To play it successfully and systematically one needs a light rubber ball - one of the tennis variety preferred - a brick wall, and a pair of particularly heavy trousers. The contestants take turns in throwing the ball at the wall, and the spot touched by the sphere on its rebound is carefully noted.

He whose record on the back shot is smallest then stands two or three feet from the wall and facing it. Next he makes a profound bow, keeping his knees rigid and maintaining his eccentric attitude until the round is over. standing on a line at close range the other merry Seniors take turns in throwing the ball at the victim, selecting as a target the section most likely to be hit under the circumstances. Each man has three shots. If he hits, well and good; if he misses he has to take his turn as a target for the man who a moment before was bowed down before the wall.

As a game “n[-word] baby” tends to develop an accurate eye, a vigorous right arm, a chastened spirit, and a delicacy about sitting down. How long it has been played at Yale nobody seems to know, but college versifiers for years have had more or less to say about niger infans. It is one of the good old institutions, and it may be that it will flourish just as kindly as ever even if grave and dignified Seniors are forbidden to play it before 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

New York Times, March 21, 1886, page 14.

Another account of the game at Yale, published in the New York Times a decade later, describes a version similar to the traditional game of “roly poly.”

There is another game in college circles that is more or less in vogue, and which is productive of an enormous amount of fun for those who take part in it. It is known as “roly-poly,” or by the less classical term “n[-word] baby.” This game is confined strictly to the campus, although some years ago the popular section wherein it was played more than elsewhere about Yale was in the open space now occupied by Osborn Hall.

As many students engage in the game as there are holes made in the ground by those who participate in the lively exercises. Generally the number of holes scooped out of the ground is half a dozen. Each hole is a few feet from the next one. Possibly the depth of each is about three inches. It is made large enough to hold conveniently a sphere about the size of a regulation baseball. A rubber ball is generally used in the game, although there have been occasions when the hard, stone-like baseball has been put into play.

Each man is assigned to guard one of the little scooped-out spots in the ground. The man who rolls the ball has the sole purpose in view at each roll to get the ball into one of these holes. At every roll every player is on the watch to see if the ball gets into his hole in the ground. The moment it does, he darts for it, grabs it up, and fires it at the student that makes the best target for his aim.

In the meantime, while he is bending over to snatch the ball for the throw, the other students are scampering away in the distance with a wild yell to get out of reach of the man who throws the ball. the student who is struck three times with the ball becomes the victim of his fellows in the game. They indulge in a lot of horse play with him for several minutes, much to the delight of scores of on-looking students. He is led up to the side of the nearest building, and there vigorously thumped by every man who had a hand in the game. It is royal sport.

New York Times, March 15, 1896, page 14.

The game was so entrenched at Yale by the mid-1890s, that plans to erect a statue of the late President of Yale on their traditional “n-word] baby” grounds caused a riot.

New Haven, Conn, June 6. – About 100 members of the graduating class of the academic department of Yale, Thursday, tore down the staging which had been put in position for the erection of the statue of the late President Woolsey, of the university. After the staging had been torn down several hundred students set fire to it and danced about the blaze, in defiance of Treasurer William W. Farnam, and the corporation, who gave orders to erect the statue in front of Durfee, on the spot where the seniors play “n[-word] baby’ and “four-cornered cat.” This ground has been sacred to the senior class, and the outbreak Thursday was a demonstration of the feeling of the undergraduates toward the corporation for destroying one of the bits of tradition that remain of “Old Yale.”

Saint Paul Globe, June 7, 1896, page 16.


The University acceded to their demands, and a change in location was announced a few days later.


Yale Daily News, June 10, 1896, page 1.

The statue now stands in the middle of the Old Campus Courtyard at Yale, within sight of (but not directly in front of) Durfee Hall - “Boola Boola”!!!


“Doll Racks”

The carnival game now generally known as “punks” or “knock down dolls” may have originated in Italy. The earliest reference to such a game I could find is from “Holiday Letters, No. 3,” from the London Correspondent of The Gloucester (England) Journal, in a description of a fair they attended in Como, Italy.

The favourite amusement was a modification of Aunt Sally.xxii A number of dolls were set up on a frame with shelves. Each doll had a name, mostly of an unpleasant character, such as “Cain,” “the Turk,” “the Tartar,” and “the Devil.” Every player paid a soldo and received three balls, which he hurled in succession at the dolls. They were so close together and the player was so close to them that it seemed impossible he should miss them. But the dolls were rather firmly fixed, and it took a very decided blow to knock them down; the result was that most of the players missed and lost their money. Those who succeeded had their soldo back.

The Gloucester Journal (Gloucester, England) October 6, 1877, page 8.


Italian origin seems to be supported by the earliest mention of the game in the United States. An “expatriated Italian nobleman in Jacksonville, Fla.” ran a doll-rack game in 1878.

How a Nobleman Makes a Living.

An expatriated Italian nobleman in Jacksonville, Fla., fired with the hope of retrieving his confiscated fortunes, has set up a novel establishment on Bay street. He has a dozen dolls, arranged on three tiers, and furnishes his customers with three balls for a dime. If you can knock down a doll with each ball, the Count pays you one of the dollars of our daddies. Of course the odds are greatly in his favor, and the illustrious foreigner wears a happy expression. - Savannah News.

The Buffalo Commercial (Buffalo, New York), February 18, 1878, page 2 (from the Savannah News (Georgia).


It is not certain that the supposed “expatriated nobleman” in Jacksonville was, in fact, the person who introduced the game to the United States. Since the game was apparently known in Italy, it could have been introduced by any number of Italian immigrants, independently in different places. But the game appears to have been relatively unknown, novel and interesting enough, that the story of the game in Jacksonville was reprinted in newspapers across the country, from Vermont to California, Georgia to Minnesota, and points in between.

If Jacksonville’s Italian expat deserves credit, it may be possible to identify him, or at least narrow it down to one of only a few suspects. The United States census for 1880 lists nine people in Jacksonville who were born in Italy. Three of them lived together as lodgers in the same house, and had occupations correspond to the skills necessary to build, run and operate a carnival doll-rack game; John Mereti (age 24) was a “showman,” Alphonso Russo (age 22) a “huxter” (presumably a hucksterxxiii), and Lepan Leoni (age 24) a “mechanic.” One can imagine the showman running the show, the huckster bringing in the business and the mechanic building and maintaining the game.

Interestingly, other lodgers in the same house were Cuban-born “segar makers.” Although the original story describes the payoff for knocking over a doll as cash money, cigars would later become the stereotypical prize for knocking over dolls at the fair. Were they in on the scheme as well?

Whether or not Mereti, Russo and/or Leoni were specifically responsible for introducing the doll-rack game in the United States, it does not appear to have been very well known (if at all) until after descriptions of their game appeared in print. Later references to the game do not appear in print until a few years later, when separate articles describing something similar popped up in Illinois (1880)xxiv, Michigan and Colorado (1881)xxv.

If the game was still relatively unknown in 1881, an article about a doll-rack concession in Detroit, Michigan would have spread awareness of the game to an even wider audience. Like the article about the Italian nobleman in Jacksonville, the story out of Detroit was widely reprinted, appearing in newspapers in at least Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and South Carolina.

Took Three Throws.

There is always a crowd around the place on Griswold street where you can throw three balls at the doll-babies on a wooden rack and earn a cigar made of cabbage-leaves and old flypaper for every one you hit.

Detroit Free Press, September 1, 1881, page 3.

The game was a common sight at Coney Island and New Jersey by the early 1880s.

“I hain’t been in New York no mor’n two days, an’ I’m goin’ back East again. The’ ain’t nothin’ to do down here but gad about at Coney Island and spend all your money for yaller glasses, and throwin’ balls at doll babies for cigars. . . . - N. Y. Tribune.

The Butte Miner (Montana), September 13, 1882, page 1.


The difference between Long Beach [New York] and the watering places resorted to at the west of it is quickly apparent. Everything here is reposeful and quiet. There is no commingling of sounds from discordant organs, no “peanuts 5 cents a package,” no invitations to knock down the doll and get half a dollar.

The Brooklyn Union, July 7, 1884, page 4.


[A] man in his shirt sleeves had four lines of wooden dolls on a frame work. He noisily harangues the crowd to induce them to spend their money with him.

“Come now, knock down the babies down,” he shouts. “Three shots for five cents. You knock down one doll and you get a good cigar; you knock down two and you get two cigars; three and you get half a dollar.”

The Daily Register (Red Bank, New Jersey), September 10, 1884, page 1.

"The Rev. L. J. Szczepanski winds up, preparing to knock down the baby dolls at one of the "concessions." Star Gazette (Elmira, New York), July 31, 1939, page 13.

The 1881 article about the doll rack in Detroit reached across the pond, where it was reprinted in at least one newspaper. English readers may have been paying attention (if they hadn’t already copied the game after the 1877 story about Como, Italy). Less than two months after the Detroit story appeared in the Derby Daily Telegraph (October 14, 1881, page 4), a similar game, but under a new name, was the subject of a prosecution for operating an unlicensed tobacco shop in Chester, England. A tobacconist named Peter Brown was arrested for selling cigars without a license. His defense was that he hadn’t sold them, he gave them away for free, as prizes for knocking down his dolls, which he called “Zulu girls.”

Defendant was there with a stand in which were three rows of dolls called “Zulu girls.” About six yards from the stand was a box containing cigars and three balls. Witness paid a penny for three balls, and threw them, and knocked two dolls down, getting a cigar for each. . . . Defendant was shouting that a cigar should be given for each “girl” knocked down. . . .

Cheshire Observer (Chester, England), December 3, 1881, page 7.

Like “Aunt Sally” before it, the name of the game, “Zulu girls,” was likely influenced by the recent events in English pop-culture. A troupe of Zulus, billed as the “Friendly Zulus,” had been performing at the London Aquarium for many months, under the auspices of a promoter called the Great Farini. Among the troupe were the Zulu King, Cetewayo’s, daughters, Unomodloza and Unozendabo, the Zulu Princesses, and an eight month old Zulu baby.

An early doll rack in California also bore a name drawn from contemporary pop-culture.

A new game, in which a lot of dolls standing are thrown at with soft balls, is called “babies on our block.” You pay for throwing, and if you knock down enough dolls you get a forfeit [(prize)] from the proprietor.

The Fresno Weekly Republican, February 11, 1882, page 4.


“Babies on our Block” was the title of a song performed by Edward Harrigan, of Harrigan & Hart, in a stage play called, the “Mulligan Guard Ball,” a sequel to the “Mulligan Guard Picnic”xxvi (Another sequel, the “Mulligan Guard Chowder” may be related to the origin of the expression, “Mulligan Stew” - see my post, “Irish Stew, Irish Militias and Chowder Parties - a History and Etymology of ‘Mulligan Stew.’”.)xxvii If the game had been invented in the 1990s, might someone would have called it, the “New Kids on the Block”? 

Those names, however, did not stick. In the United States, early references to the game generally referred to them simply as “dolls” or “doll babies,” and later typically as a “doll rack.” But even as early as 1880, some people referred to the game by a name that would stick with the game for decades.

The dolls were frequently referred to as “N[-word] Babies.”

Second Regiment. The Fifth Annual Picnic. Such a time as there was! The galvanic battery man was there, ready to shock a whole community at the rate of five cents per shock. . . . the n[-word]-baby-and-baseball man was on hand with his targets and seductive smile, “One baby, one cigar; two babies, two cigars; three babies, ten cigars . . . .”

Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1880, page 8.

Along the shores of the classic Kiswaukee a dancing hall had been erected, Fisher’s Hall it was called . . . elsewhere they were throwing at a mark, the mark a dozen n[-word] babies with cigars for prizes to those who hit them . . . .

True Republican (Sycamore, Illinois), September 4, 1880, page 1.

Mr. Frank Burrows is the boss to throw base-balls. He walked off with a fine clock from the N[-word] Baby Show, by knocking down three babies in succession. Come and try your muscle and win a clock or a box of cigars.

The Morning Astorian (Oregon), March 5, 1882, page 3.


Despite the name, the dolls or figures used to play the game did not represent black people.

This undated postcard, for example, apparently shows a racially diverse set of dolls.



Eight years after the earliest mention of doll racks in Jacksonville, Florida, the game was a common sight at carnivals and fairs, as shown in a depiction of a typical, American State Fair in Puck magazine, in 1886.xxviii But despite the fact that the game was already widely (although not exclusively) known as “N[-word] Babies,” an enlarged detail from the image shows that the dolls used in the game were not necessarily black dolls.

“The County Fair,” St. Nicholas (children’s magazine), Volume 31, Number 11, September 1904, page 1005.


Professional doll racks sold by the N. Shure Company (from at least as early as 1913 through 1936xxix) show only one black face among thirty-six characters.


eBay item 311790611168, seller gdawg, “Great ads from a 1913 Shure publication.”

eBay item 153382625966, seller gdawg, “Great ads from a 1936 Shure publication.”

The N. Shure Company was in business in Chicago selling “toys, notions, stationery, etc.”xxx from as early as 1901. By 1911, they billed themselves as a wholesale supply house for “Streetmen, Venders, Schemists, Premium Men, Novelty Dealers, Rustlers, Fair and Carnival Workers.”

 New York Clipper, September 23, 1911, page 24.


If it’s true that they were one of the leading suppliers, and these were their typical doll rack offerings, then even where the game was frequently known as “N[-word] Baby,” people were not throwing at black doll figures, much less live human babies of any race.

Do-it-yourself instructions from the 1920s suggest having doll rack figures “with names of local celebrities painted under them on the rack, the audience will howl with delight, and will clamor for a shot at the dolls, and ‘the prizes.’”xxxi


“Paint crosspieces in white with local names in black,” 

F. V. Degenhardt, “Shows and Stunts,” Practical Entertainment for Everyone, St. Charles, Illinois, the Universal Press, 1925, page 20.


Do-it-yourself instructions for making backyard carnival games, including a doll rack and an inanimate “dodger” game, show a variety of non-descript faces - although Hitler is recognizable.


Mussolini suffered a similar fate, at least metaphorically, in a political cartoon depicting a different game - the “African Dodger.”


Albuquerque Tribune (New Mexico), November 7, 1935, page 6.


“Dodgers” and “Dips”

References to “Doll Racks” (1877) appear in the historical record several years before the earliest references to “African Dodgers” (1881); and the earliest, unambiguous reference to an “African Dodger” game as an “N[-word] Baby” that I have seen did not appear until 1910. One reference to an “African Dodger” with a sign bearing the name “Patagonian Baby” appeared as early as 1887,xxxii although even that would have been more than seven years after the earliest reference to a doll rack as “N[-word] Babies” (July 1880).

As used with respect to these games, however, the name was a a misnomer. The “dodgers” and “dips” were not babies; they were grown men or adolescents who willingly accepted the risks of the games for pay - and they were not necessarily black.

In “African Dodger,” the “dodger” stuck their head through a canvas sheet, taunted the throwers, and tried to avoid a baseball (sometimes a softer, mock-baseball) thrown at their head. The game provided the challenge of hitting a moving target, with the added motivation provided by the smack-talk and taunting. Although “African Dodger” was, by far, the most common name for the game, it was occasionally known as “Negro Dodger,” “Coon Dodger” or “N[-word] Dodger.”

The “Dodger” was generally a black man, although sometimes a white man in blackface, or simply a white person, despite the race-specific name. The earliest reference to an “African Dodger” that I have been able to find, in fact, refers to the “dodger” in that instance as a “burnt cork artist,” a reference to the material used to blacken the face of a blackface performer.

There is a new dodge in the African dodger line this year. In place of the burnt cork artist who heretofore has been in the habit of sticking his head through a hole made in a canvass background, a man has substituted a monkey.

The Indiana Herald (Huntington, Indiana), September 23, 1881, page 3.


A drawing accompanying the second-earliest reference to an “African Dodger,” on the other hand, appears to depict a more authentic person of African descent.


Johnny Headstrong’s Trip to Coney Island, New York, McLoughlin Bros., 1882 (Johnny hit a bystander, instead of the intended target).

In 1897 Boston, it was a white man named “Red” in blackface.

Then there was the painted African dodger, who didn’t look like a Tech alumnus. The man at the throwing end called him “Red.” And Red was very fly. He wore a rimless tall hat and chewed tobacco, and he perspired black paint. He dodged and he ducked and he had the biggest audience of the day to see him do it.

The Boston Globe, July 6, 1897, page 7.


In 1934, presumably white high school students in Alexandria, Indiana played “n[-word] baby” as the “dodger” in an African Dodger game.


The “n[-word] babies will stand back of a canvas partition with only their heads exposed to the public, and as a target for the hurlers. . . .

The use of tennis balls will preclude any possibility of injury.

The Alexandria Times-Tribune (Alexandria, Indiana), October 31, 1934, page 1.

MAN WANTED - White or colored man to do African Dodger.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 18, 1902, page 16.


WANTED - Colored man to work in African dodger street.

Indianapolis News, June 9, 1904, page 8.


Which raises an interesting question: is it worse to have a dangerous game called “African dodgers” or to discriminate in favor of white people to fill that job?


WANTED - White “African dodgers” for fairs. Six weeks sure.

St. Joseph Gazette (St. Joseph, Missouri), August 28, 1910, page 8.


“Wanted - African dodger; 60 cents an hour; 50-foot alley.”

. . . An “African dodger” is a man who is willing to place his head through a hole in a canvass wall and allow men to try to hit it with a baseball. There is no restriction as to color in filing the order, it was stated, but negroes have been the most successful in this pursuit in the past.

The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), August 5, 1922, page 9.


The game was dangerous, regardless of the race of the “Dodger.” It was dangerous for the white actor who blacked up to play an “African Dodger” at Coney Island in 1909. He had picked the wrong day to be there - it was the night the New York baseball Giants showed up, en masse, including pitchers Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson. Someone fooled him with a curveball.


Coney Island Faker Up Against Wrong Men

New York World: -

“Found anything yet, Jack?” queried one actor of another as they met in front of the Knickerbocker.

“Nothing permanent,” sighed the other. “Had a small job at Coney, but I quit it suddenly a week ago. . . . [T]he only thing that came my way was a job as an African dodger. You stick your head through a hole in a canvass and they throw baseballs at you. I was all blacked up, so none of my friends could spot me, and it wasn’t especially hard work. The average man can’t throw anywhere near a target, and any time a real good shot came at me I ducked in safety. . . .

“I had been having it rather easy, and I was getting a little careless. Anyhow I never noticed a crow of husky looking guys that were buying the right to throw, and I didn’t wake up till a ball came whizzing down the tent. It was very wide, and I only grinned, but the next instant it changed its route and hit me on the jaw. Before I got the shock of that one off my brain another swift shot got me on the forehead. I peered out at the group, and resigned right there. Just simply beat it, that’s all. The bunch was made up of Bugs Raymond, George Wiltse, Otis Crandall, Rube Marquard and Christy Mathewson, and each of them had bought a dollar’s worth of throws.

The Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, Ontario), October 16, 1909, page 11.


But those risks could be minimized, to some extent, with protective equipment. The main piece of protective equipment was the large sheet in front of the dodger, which protected the rest of the body from the balls. The head presented a smaller target, and could be moved more readily. The game was played in such a way that being hit at all was apparently very rare, and injury even more rare. Some games even provided protective head gear, or at least demanded that their employees provide their own head protection.


MAN Wtd. - Colored man as African dodger for church bazar. . . . must furnish head protection.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 17, 1910, page 20.


But the game could also be dangerous for people who wore protection (although it is unclear how widespread the use of gear was).


While using his head as a mark in a street stand at the Warren fair Wednesday Oscar Jones sixteen-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Jones, of Bluffton, was struck on the head by a base ball and lay unconscious for a short time. The outfit is called “The African Dodger.” A canvass is suspended with a hole in the center. The man with a black face, in this case the Jones boy, with a pad on the top of his head, sticks his head through the hole and base balls are thrown at him. If the balls come near the head is ducked and the balls strikes the pad and there is no injury done. However, the pad which Jones wore failed to serve its purpose and his bare head received the blow.

Daily News-Democrat (Huntington, Indiana), August 24, 1906, page 3.


Another protective measure was the use, generally, of balls that may have looked like baseballs, but were softer and lighter.

The usual style of balls used for the purpose of hitting the dodger are the small sort of cheap balls sold at toy stores. This is, of course, a judicious policy on the part of the fakir, as he does not want his dodger disabled by a hard base ball. The dodger likes it better, too. He can then allow himself to be hit occasionally “just to keep the excitement up” without special danger of being hurt.”

The Boston Globe, August 11, 1889, page 19.

The African dodger had his head sticking through a sheet: three shots for five, with a rubber ball; “now you see him, now you don’t, when you can, soak it to him.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 27, 1902, page 6.

Commonly the distance between the screen and the counter where the balls are sold and where the throwers stand is 25 feet, and there are really not a great many people who can at that distance throw a ball with certainty through the hole; and the colored man is very watchful and a very alert dodger. They get him sometimes, for there may be three or four men or more throwing at the same time.

The balls regularly supplied are soft and cannot do serious injury . . . . 

The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), September 17, 1911, page 17.

The boys amused themselves by pegging soft rubber balls at his head, which was stuck through a canvas.

The Merchants Journal (Topeka, Kansas), January 31, 1914, page 28.

Booths and shows were erected along a regular midway parade and all kinds of attractions and money getters were there to appeal to the public taste and bring in the change. There was the “African Dodger,” who defied anybody to hit his dome with a tennis ball.

The News-Mesenger (Fremont, Ohio), June 6, 1919, page 5.


 “African Dodger” balls were even marketed as a distinct product.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26, 1922, page 25.

Although want ads reassuring job seekers that it would be a “soft ball,” and job seekers looking for such reassurances, may suggest that that was always not always the case, or at least that people may not generally have been aware that that was the case.

A request for two African Dodgers made by a concessionaire at the Great Lakes Exposition is just one of the unusual requests submitted to the Ohio State Employment Service, records reveal.

One of the positions was filled by a professional boxer who refused to take the job until he was assured the throwers would use a soft ball.

The Daily Times (New Philadelphia, Ohio), September 4, 1936, page 13.


COLORED. experienced African ball dodger (soft ball), one evening’s work.

The Miami Herald, October 19, 1940, page 17.

Despite the apparent dangers, and perhaps because of the several safety precautions, there was apparently no shortage of people signing up to become “African Dodgers.” They remained a common part of carnivals, fairs and amusement parks like Coney Island for decades. But that’s not to say there were never complaints. In 1914, for example, the “African Dodgers” of Coney Island threatened to go on strike for better pay.


That “the visitors to Coney Island are becoming far too accurate for comfort and small salaries,” is the claim of the African ball dodgers in the various resorts, and accordingly they are talking of combining and going on strike for a salary of $30 per week.

“Our heads are sore,” said one dusky dodger, reflectively patting the top of his cranium, “with all these ball players coming down here and whacking us. We want $30 per instead of $12. The bosses can afford it.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 8, 1914, page 1.


By way of comparison, a woman working in a box factory could earn $8 a week in 1914, the Ford Motor Company announced that year it would pay a minimum wage of $5 per day ($30 a week, with a six day workweek), and in London, England that year, workers demanded a minimum wage equivalent to $7.50 per week.

So even $12 they earned, to say nothing of the $30 per week they requested, would have been decent pay for what may seem like unskilled labor. But there were skills involved. Aside from the obvious, speed, quickness and alertness, chief among the required skills were practical psychology and diplomatic smack-talking.

An African dodger must have a quick eye and ability to dodge; must be able, at a glance, to size up an audience and utter such taunts and jests as will tend to irritate a customer so that he will spend more money in his desire to “get even” with the dodger and hit him “a good one” so as to remove the smile, and still he must be diplomatic enough not to anger the customer to the extent that he will not “play any more.”

Boston Globe, November 27, 1915, page 10.


The “African Dodger” game was so dangerous that it came under scrutiny by legislatures. But when the New York legislature initially looked into banning it, they reportedly abandoned their plans because no one could point to any particular instance in which an “African Dodger” had been injured.

The African Dodger is Preserved

The State Senate has decided not to kill off that fine old pastime, popular at Coney Island and country fairs, which consists in throwing baseballs at the head of an African.

Somebody at Albany seems to have waked up to the idea that this temporary open season never had resulted in an increased mortality among our colored fellow citizens. No records were produced to show that a skull had been cracked or could be.

As a matter of fact, hitting the head is just about as good a gamble as locating a wandering pea under the shellman’s little walnut husks. You take a chance, and the other fellow takes the money.

The Binghamton Press (Binghamton, New York), March 15, 1915, page 6.


They apparently did eventually ban the game, however, and other states followed. Later that same year, Massachusetts prepared legislation based on New York’s law.xxxiii But drafting legislation to accomplish its intended purpose, without creating unintended consequences, is a difficult proposition. Would it make criminals out of baseball players?


Baseball Players Opposed to Bill They Say Would Make Them Criminals

Boston, Jan. 27 - Friends of baseball today opposed before a legislative committee a bill which they asserted would make players criminals in this state. The measure, intended to prohibit “African dodging,” provides that any person, who for hire or in a public place, invites any person or persons to throw, release or shoot a ball at his head, shall be fined not more than $100, or imprisoned for not more than one year. Those opposed to the bill argued that it would make baseball batsmen or catchers technical criminals.

The Lewiston Daily Sun (Lewiston, Maine), January 28, 1916, page 7.


And the technical application of the law did take the innocent fun out of at least church bazaar.


Pastor of First Methodist Church Comments on Friday Night Incident.

Rev. Herbert J. Burgstahler, pastor of the First Methodist Church, North Fitzhigh street, characterized the so-called African-dodger game that was closed by a policeman at the Epworth League carnival on Friday evening at the church as an “innocent, wholesome game” and said that the suppression was due to the efforts of certain interests in Rochester that are out to “muzzle the churches.”

Mr. Burgstahler said the game that received police attention offered no danger at all to the young girl who took the part of the dodger. Soft rubber balls were thrown, and the carnival was mainly for children.

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), May 14, 1911, page 37.


The dangers of being an “African Dodger,” however, were real, even if rare. The dangers increased dramatically when the throwers cheated. Among the reports of injuries to “dodgers,” a significant percentage of those reports suggest the customers cheated, switched balls, or otherwise changed the game with a specific intent to do harm, in which case the injuries were not caused by normal gameplay.

The balls regularly supplied are soft and cannot do serious injury; but other missiles are sometimes worked in. Occasionally some man in the crowd may throw a brickbat at the negro’s head, or may think it is funny to throw a tomato or something of that sort.

While a dodger may sometimes get hurt, he is likely to go on through the season free from injury. One New York man in the show business who has put dodger games on the road for years had in his employ one dodger who followed this business regularly season after season for 10 years and was never seriously injured. He made this his regular occupation. Probably half the colored men in the dodger business are interested in the same way and the pay is good.

The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), September 17, 1911, page 17.


Before daylight, the crowds armed with torpedos made things interesting for the fakirs and many times was the African dodger struck by something which smarted more than a soft ball.

The Lowell Sun (Lowell, Massachusetts), July 5, 1894, page 1.



Subjected to a fusilade of balls thrown by a squad of local baseball players, William White, a negro, who acted as the target in a “hit the coon” show at the Hanover Fair last Friday, was injured so seriously that he was removed to the York Hospital to-day for treatment.

Although it was played unfairly, the negro would not be downed in his own game, and he took the punishment courageously. Supplying themselves with heavy balls, the sportsmen visited the gallery with the intention of putting the elusive “coon” out of commission.

Substituting the heavy balls for the light one which they bought from the showman, the players were enabled to throw straight and hard, and they hit the “coon” nearly every time.

Philadelphia Record, September 22, 1908, page 4.


A local baseball player surprised a “dodger” by throwing from a neighboring doll-rack game, using a real, hard baseball, instead of a softer “African Dodger” ball. Because it was a surprise throw, from a neighboring concession, the “dodger” was injured, despite wearing protection.

The “African Dodger” was doing business in a booth adjacent to the “N[-word] Baby” rack. The North Belleville base ball player sauntered along with a friend and purchased three base balls with which to throw at the n[-word] babies.

Just as he was preparing to throw at the n[-word] babies, the African Dodger stuck his head out of the opening in the screen at the rear of his booth. The ball player decided the African’s head was a better mark than the “N[-word] Babies” and he sent a fast straight one at Mr. African. The ball went true, but because the man who threw it was standing to one side, the missile struck beneath the large pad worn by the African. . . .

The man who threw the ball was taken to the central police station and later released after he told his story.

The Semi-Weekly Advocate (Belleville, Illinois), June 9, 1914, page 3.


A young boy was injured playing “African dodger” at home, when his playmates used concrete.

Played N[-word] Baby; Eye is Seriously Injured

Long Beach, May 23. - The young son of Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Clayton, 737 Lime avenue, smeared his face with blacking and stuck his head through a hole in a canvas, simulating an “African dodger” whom he had watched with interest on the Pike yesterday afternoon.

. . . Young Clayton was struck squarely in the left eye with a piece of concrete. The missile had been delivered with great speed and the eye was badly, but not permanently, injured.

Los Angeles Herald, May 24, 1910, page 14.


The “African Dip” was a progressive-era improvement over the “dodger.” Known today as the dunk tank, the only real danger was becoming wet or cold. The “dodger” was replaced by a man shielded by protective netting and sitting on a seat suspended above a tank of water. Instead of throwing at their head, customers threw balls at a target next to the tank. If they struck the target, the bench would collapse and the person on it would fall into the tank of water.


The Strand Magazine (London, England), Volume 43, Number 255, March 1912, page 358 (photographed on the beach, in or near Los Angeles, California).


In the early days of dunk tanks, continuing in the familiar tradition of the “African Dodger,” the person dunked (“dipped”) into the tank was generally black (although sometimes it was a white person in blackface), and the ability to talk some good smack was still an import aspect of the game.

“Come on here, boys, have a try at knocking the n[-word] in the tank. Three balls for a nickel and a cigar to the man who knocks him in!” . . . And the n[-word], teeth chattering and bones quaking, had to grin and invite them to “Come on boys, knock me in!”

The Baltimore Sun, September 7, 1913, page 22.


"Yas, sah, cap; ah'm right here!" 

Chicago Tribune, July 25, 1915, part 5, page 6.


In St. Louis, Missouri, they mixed their various carnival throwing game metaphors, referring to a dunk tank as being like a doll rack, while referring to the Washington University fraternity brothers being dunked as “African Dodgers.”

Next in success to the movies was the hybrid concession of the Lock and Chain Society. This exhibit was like the old-time “n[-word]-baby-down-one-cigar,” except that if the baseballs struck their mark a pin was knocked from a loosely hung seat upon which one of the Lock and Chain men were seated and, with the collapse of his seat, he was precipitated into a tank of water underneath.

The sight of the collegians shivering and dripping in bathing suits and the chill breezes was irresistible to the crowd, who willingly contributed dimes to make the “African dodger” more miserable and shrieked with merriment as this sinister purpose was accomplished.

St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 11, 1916, page 6.

Perhaps inspired by the name of the new gaming apparatus, a black performer from California, named Jim Jonny, performed an "original number" entitled, "African Dip," in Ciudad Lineal, Madrid, Spain. 

Mundo Grafico (Madrid), Volume 2, Number 38, July 10, 1912.

Some early versions of the game, however, were marketed as the “Sappho Dip,” with a woman in the hot seat, instead of a man, which promised a different kind of thrill.


The “Sappho dips,” a suggestive ball throwing contrivance arranged to catch the nickels of minds perverted were closed out by the police yesterday. . . .

The Midway violators sought to steal back during the closing hours of the show last night and the man and woman conducting the game were arrested.

The San Bernardino County Sun, February 25, 1912, page 4.


For more information the early history of the “African Dodger” and “African Dip,” see my previous post, “Dodgers and Dips - the Dark History of the Dunk Tank.”
































i  eBay item number 311790611168; seller gdawg; updated March 8, 2022; accessed June 3, 2022.

ii  https://msmagazine.com/2015/11/24/how-america-bought-and-sold-racism-and-why-it-still-matters/

iii  “Dodgers and Dips - the Dark History of the Dunk Tank,” Early Sports ‘n’ Pop-Culture History Blog, June 6, 2016. https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2016/06/dodgers-and-dips-dark-history-of-dunk.html

iv  Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum posted an article online about the “African Dodger” game that mentions doll racks, but only as a later replacement for the “African Dodger,” although doll racks came first, and were known as “N[-word] Babies” for several decades before the “African Dodger” was known by that name. Their article includes a citation to an article as an example of a reference to an “African Dodger,” although it seems to clearly refer to a doll rack game. See, “The African Dodger,” Franklin Hughes, ferris.edu https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/question/2012/october.htm (citing “Elks’ Jubilee Ends,” The Washington Herald, June 19, 1908, page 14 (“’n[-word] babies’ were hit with baseballs until they were unable to maintain their upright position . . . .”).


The fact-checking site, Snopes.com, has an article about dunk tanks and “African Dodgers” that includes at least two citations to references it characterizes as being about “African Dodgers,” but which seem more likely to be references to doll rack games. See, “Was a Violently Racist Carnival Game Once Popular in America?” Dan MacGuill, Snopes.com, February 26, 2018, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/racist-carnival-game/ (citing an advertisement for a “Soldiers Reunion,” Jackson County Banner (Brownstown, Indiana), July 7, 1948, page 2 (“Hit the ‘N[-word] Babies’”) and “Harris School Notes,” The Lake Park News (Lake Park, Iowa), November 14, 1935, page 8 (“the crowd enjoyed themselves in visiting the various booths or trying to ring a duck’s neck in a tank of water or hit the n[-word] baby.”). The reference to “ringing a duck’s neck” is also likely a ring toss game with rubber duckies, not public strangulation of live ducks.

v  Having found no direct evidence of human infants being used as targets, the writer for the fact-checking site, Snopes.com, asked the Jim Crow Museum “whether toddlers were subjected to being human targets.” Had that writer been familiar with the history of doll racks and the name, “N[-word] Babies,” they may not have asked the question.

vi  “A Fair Game,” National Portrait Gallery. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw216821/A-Fair-Game?search=sp&sText=fair+game&firstRun=true&OConly=true&rNo=1

vii  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Hogarth_-_The_First_Stage_of_Cruelty-_Children_Torturing_Animals_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

viii  The Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), January 4, 1840, page 2.

ix  “Another Heavy Blow,” National Portrait Gallery. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw232153/Another-Heavy-Blow?set=546;Political+Sketches+by+H.B.+(vol+V)&displayNo=60&wPage=2&search=ap&rNo=129

x  The Morning Post (London), February 25, 1846, page 5.

xi  Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (London), March 18, 1849, page 6.

xii  Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania), August 4, 1868, page 2.

xiii  See my earlier post, “The Grim Reality of the ‘Trolley Dodgers,’” Early Sports ‘n’ Pop-Culture History Blog. https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-grim-reality-of-trolley-dodgers.html

xiv  “Cocoa Nibs, Coffee Nibs, Licorice Nibs and His Royal Oriental Nibs - Racism and Licorice,” Early Sports ‘n’ Pop-Culture History Blog. https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2022/05/cocoa-nibs-coffee-nibs-licorice-nibs.html

xv  The Yale Record, Volume 2, Number 32, May 6, 1874, page 392.

xvi  The Yale Record, Volume 6, Number 7, December 15, 1877, page 82.

xvii  The Yale Daily News, April 3, 1879, page 2.

xviii  The Yale Record, Volume 9, Number 13, April 2, 1881, page 149.

xix  https://lostnewengland.com/2019/09/durfee-hall-new-haven-connecticut/

xx  https://historyofsoccer.info/the-ancient-game-of-harpastum

xxi  The Yale Record, Volume 7, Number 14, April 5, 1879, page 161.

xxii  “Aunt Sally” refers to an earlier British throwing game, in which players threw sticks at clay pipes stuck in a wooden head.

xxiii  Perusing online document archives, “huckster” appears to have been the dominant spelling at the time in the United States and England. The spelling, “huxter,” however, also appears in print with significant frequency, particularly in British publications. The occupation apparently spelled, h-u-x-t-e-r may well refer to a “huckster.”

xxiv  Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1880, page 8.

xxv  Detroit Free Press, September 1, 1881, page 3; The Express (Fort Collins, Colorado), October 13, 1881, page 3.

xxvi  New York Daily Herald, January 14, 1879, page 3 (“The ‘Mulligan Guard Ball’ was presented in one act and seven scenes, and evoked from an immense audience screams of laughter equal to those produced by the”Mulligan Guard Picnic,” to which it is facetiously termed a sequel . . . The ‘Babies on our Block’ and the ‘Hallway Door,’ two new songs sung by Mr. Harrigan, were well received . . . .”).

xxvii  Early Sports ‘n’ Pop-Culture History Blog, “Irish Stew, Irish Militias and Chowder Parties - a History and Etymology of ‘Mulligan Stew.’” https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2016/06/irish-stew-irish-militias-and-chowder.html

xxviii  Puck, Volume 20, Number 499, September 29, 1886, page 80.

xxix  eBay.com, accessed June 2022. Two separate advertisements, posted by a seller ID gdawg. Item number 311790611168 lists “Great ads from a 1913 Original Paper Advertising. Shure publication. Item number 153382625966 lists “Great ads from a 1936 Shure publication.”

xxx  Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1901, page 23 (help wanted ad, seeking a “City Salesman - Experienced in Toys, notions, stationery, etc., N. Shure Co., 264 E. Madison-st.”).

xxxi  F. V. Degenhardt, “Shows and Stunts,” Practical Entertainment for Everyone, St. Charles, Illinois, the Universal Press, 1925, page 21.

xxxii  The Sun (New York), September 29, 1887, page 2.

xxxiii  The Boston Globe, November 27, 1915, page 10.


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