Amusements and Diversions: Monroe Family Games

June through October, 2005

This exhibit, which was on display in the Rare Book Room, featured games and other amusements enjoyed by James Monroe in both his youth and adulthood. The exhibit showcased several artifacts owned by Monroe, such as chess pieces and a checkers set from his term as the Governor of Virginia (1799-1802), decks of cards used by Monroe during his visits to Chatham for the seasonal horse races, a gaming table used at Oak Hill, the property where the Monroes retired, and a dominoes set that belonged to Monroe’s nephew Jimmy Monroe (1799-1870).

The exhibit also explained the history and rules of popular eighteenth and nineteenth century games such as “shovel groat,” an early American version of shuffle board, and “whist,” an English card game that originated in the seventeenth century. Interactive elements geared towards children allowed visitors to actually participate in some of the games through mediums such as blank dominoes on which children could draw their own symbols, a miniature shovel groat table with a modern-day shuffle board court drawn on it, and a checkers set that utilized black and white beans in place of the modern gaming pieces used today.