Checkered Game of Life

Paula Petrik, Professor of History and Art History, George Mason University


Milton Bradley of Springfied, Massachusetts introduced “The Checkered Game of Life” during the Civil War. Like several other games, it became immensely popular. Players used a spinner (not dice because of their association with gambling) to move their counter along the “track,” beginning with Infancy and ending with Happy Old Age. Pointing fingers and text indicated where the players should go, should they land on a named square. In “The Checkered Game of Life” landing on Suicide put a player out of the game. Like most nineteenth-century board games, the game was highly didactic and moralistic—intended to teach youth solid principles and virtues. As you look at the game board, think about what is written on the board, who or what is pictured, and the shape to the “track.” Be sure to consult your textbook’s discussion of nineteenth-century gender roles before you begin.

Updated | April 2004