Friday, June 30, 2017

Quoits, Anyone? The History of an American Pastime  

Next week, the country will commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. 241 years ago, the original thirteen American colonies declared themselves a new nation – the United States of America. Whether it be political ceremonies or barbecues and parades, there are many ways we honor the history and traditions of our nation.

As many of us pull out cornhole, horseshoes or the croquette set this weekend, let’s dive into the history of the game of quoits, an extremely popular game during the founding of our nation. In our opinion, we’d like to see it overtake cornhole to once again be a favorite BBQ pastime!

Quoits has origins in ancient Greece and was picked up by the Roman conquerors and spread throughout Europe. According to the United States Quoiting Association, quoits originally came to America in the 1700s with the early settlers from England. The game consists of throwing a metal ring towards a spike to either land on or near it. It was considered a more sophisticated lawn game in comparison to horseshoes, which was played by commoners.

John Marshall, fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was a renowned quoits player in Richmond. Playing quoits during Court Days was a popular pastime in Virginia, which may be how he became such an excellent player1. The John Marshall House has a set of quoits that are a reproduction of the original set Marshall would have possessed. 

Marshall was a member of the Buchanan Spring Quoits Club (also known as the Richmond or Fairfield Sociable Club), which consisted of 30 elected members, including the city’s leading merchants, politicians and professional men2. The group met every Saturday afternoon from May to November at Reverend John Buchanan’s farm and the men were no strangers to having a good time. They feasted on barbecued pig and drank punch and juleps. Talking about politics was strictly prohibited at these gatherings. Rule breakers were punished by Marshall with a hefty fine – alcohol.

Historic Richmond Foundation has revived this historic pastime, with the Quoit Club. Membership includes social gatherings and an all-access pass to Richmond’s history through members-only tours inside of the city’s most interesting buildings and locations. 

At the John Marshall House, you can play a game of quoits in the garden when you come for a visit! There is a pit set up outside and the house has a modern quoits set for you to throw. The John Marshall House is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, March through December.

Preservation Virginia wishes you a happy and healthy Independence Day weekend!

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