Business and Labor

Before Monopoly All the Kids were Wild About Pope and Pagan

In 1844, young people of Massachusetts were treated to a new board game: Pope and Pagan, or Siege of the stronghold of Satan by the Christian army.

The rules of the game were simple. Two players were needed. One party assumed the role of Pope and Pagan, described in the game’s rules as a “papal and pagan Antichrist.” The other represented a Christian army of missionaries trying to conquer Satan. The missionaries would have fifteen board pieces and the Pope and Pagan had one. The players alternated moves on a series of squares. The goal of the missionaries was to maneuver the Pope and Pagan into a corner where he could not move. The Pope and Pagan, meanwhile, could capture the missionaries’ pieces. His goal was to capture all the enemy’s pieces.

The game, probably inspired by characters Pope and Pagan in the book Pilgrim’s Progress, was played along the lines of an older game, Fox & Geese. But the theme was pure Massachusetts’ Know-Nothing. The Know-Nothing political party had its roots in the 1830s and 1840s, when protestant Americans were increasingly alarmed by the influx of Catholic Europeans into America. It started as a secret association. If members were asked about it, they were to reply that they knew nothing, hence its name.

pope and pagan

The Mansion of Happiness Game Board.

The most dramatic act the Massachusetts Know-Nothing’s undertook was the burning to the Ursaline Convent in Charlestown in 1834. As the movement matured it became more of a mainstream political party until it petered out in the mid-1800s.

The 1844 board game, meanwhile, reflected the rising popular sentiment against the Catholic Church in America. The game was published by the W. and S.B. Ives Company. W. and S.B. were William Ives and Stephen Bradshaw Ives, a pair of brothers who went into business as publishers of the Salem Observer in Salem, Mass. Game making seems to have been one of many publishing ventures they undertook.

The company published a children’s magazine, books and the Salem Observer newspaper, in addition to board games. William Ives was a pious man, and another of the games he published was designed to instruct the players in morality. The Mansion of Happiness game had players trying to advance around a board to a mansion by landing on spaces with labels such as Humility and Chastity, while avoiding landing on squares with labels such as Drunkard, Perjurer or Robber.

William Ives would continue in the board game and publishing business until he died, in 1874. Stephen Baldwin Ives broke off and went into business in Boston importing luxury goods, though he remained a Salem resident and was active in politics until his death in 1883. The Ives’s greatest influence, however, was perhaps on a young man, George Parker, who took a liking to the games the Ives’ produced.

Parker would grow up and buy the Ives’ game company, but he found their moralizing a bit heavy handed. His new company, Parker Brothers, would keep the game board format, but instead of reinforcing anti-Irish prejudice or morality, Parker made greed the focus of his best-selling game, Monopoly.

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