The Paul Revere House  

Fun and Games in the 1700s

Although Paul Revere is now famous for his contributions to the Revolution, he might also be remembered for his role as a father! During the course of his lifetime, he had sixteen children, eight with his first wife Sarah, who died after the birth of her last child, and eight more with his second wife Rachel.

Although he had sixteen, all of the children never lived in the house together at the same time. Can you guess why not? There are two reasons: five of the children died when they were babies and the surviving children were spread out over thirty years. (Imagine having a brother or sister who is thirty years older than you are. Ask your parents to imagine having a newborn baby in their house from the time they were 22 until they were 52 as Revere did!) So at the most, there were eight children living in the house at once.

Before and during the Revolution, Revere was primarily working as a silversmith. Although Revere made beautiful pitchers, bowls, buckles and buttons, he was not wealthy. As a result, he could not afford to buy toys for his children. They played with things they made or could find in and around the house. Below are instructions for playing two of the games the Revere children probably played.

Five Stones

Players: Any number
Materials: Five stones or pebbles per player

Fun Facts

When the Revere children lived in Boston, the city streets were either dirt or cobblestone. Nothing was paved. As a result it was easy to find pebbles to play this game. Today in the North End, it is almost impossible to find pebbles!

How to Play

Sit in a circle. Choose one person to begin, then take turns going around the circle. The first player tosses one stone in the air and tries to catch it on the back of the hand from which she threw it. If she catches it, she remains in the game. If not, she is out. The person to the first player's left tries to do the same.

After everyone in the circle has tried to catch one stone, try with two, three, four and five stones, taking turns as before. Continue playing until everyone has missed. The person who is able to catch the highest number of stones on the back of her hand wins.

Hints:

  • Practice for a while before you begin playing.
  • Keep your fingers together when you are trying to catch stones.
  • Flat stones are easiest to catch.

Jack Straws or Pick-Up Sticks

Players: 2-5
Materials: 20 straws cut from a broom - real straws are better than plastic. Be certain to ask your parents' permission to cut the straws before you do it!

Fun Facts

The Revere children had no trouble finding straw to play this game. Even though the Reveres lived in a crowded city neighborhood, they had a barn behind their house in which they kept chickens and a cow. (As a silversmith, Revere could not afford a horse! Whenever he worked as a messenger he borrowed or rented one.) The barn undoubtedly had straw for the animals' bedding. Although you may have played this game with wooden sticks, you will find it much more difficult to play with straw. Straw is often frayed and irregular. It is much trickier to extricate a straw from the pile than it is to remove a smooth stick.

How to Play

Choose someone to begin. He holds the straws about five inches above the surface on which the group will play, then drops them. The player to his left tries to pick up as many straws as he can without moving any of the others. When he moves another straw, he must leave the one he was trying to remove and his turn is over. The person to the left goes next.

Play continues until all of the straws have been removed. The player with the most straws wins.


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