These items were popular entertainment for Plainsboro children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were donated to the Wicoff House Museum by Plainsboro families.
Baseball was becoming quite the popular outdoor game during this time. Children in the late 1800’s often played “pickup” baseball in streets or sandlots with substandard equipment. Cast-off bats and balls were taped and re-taped, and catcher’s equipment in children’s sizes was almost nonexistent. By the 1930’s neighborhood kids would gather for more structured games. In 1939, Little League Baseball was founded by Carl Stotz in Williamsport, PA. The baseball catcher’s glove in our collection was manufactured by P. Goldsmith & Sons, which began manufacturing baseball equipment in 1912. Goldsmith had a number of logos through its history and would later rebrand as Goldsmith-MacGregor after 1945. This catcher’s mitt is marked only Goldsmith and research suggests it is a Billy Sullivan model from 1938.
The classic ball-and-paddle toy in our collection is an interesting take on “paddle-ball” as it also bears resemblance to the “cup-and-ball” toy. It is marked with an advertisement for Mueller, The Hatter of Trenton, NJ. George Mueller operated a millinery in downtown Trenton between at least 1892 and 1906. Imagine a turn-of-the-century Plainsboro family taking a weekend trolley ride into the city to enjoy the diverse shops and restaurants not otherwise available to them in their rural hometown.
The jacks in our collection were a Christmas gift to John Van Buren Wicoff’s daughter, Marjorie Wicoff, who was born in 1919. The cloth bag includes a tag that reads “Wishing You a Merry Christmas Marjorie W.” Jacks is one of the oldest and most widespread games in the world. Children in ancient Egypt played a version of the game, known as “knucklebones,” with sheep toe bones. The game of knucklebones led to dice games and a version of modern jacks known as Fivestone which was played with a wooden ball. Eventually, a rubber ball replaced the wooden one and the modern version of the game as we know it was born. Over the years, jacks have been produced using different types of materials, from metals to plastic, and in various colors.
Learn more about children’s entertainment during this time and the history of Plainsboro schools by visiting our exhibit – open until May 7th! Visiting hours are 1pm-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.