Union soldiers playing whist, circa 1861
Tuesday 3d Have been looking over the boys shirts and
have mended some of them. Fred carried me
to call on Augustus’s wife, called at Mr Torreys
an[d] Mrs J Williams engaged her to make some shirts
for Oliver Mr & Mrs Williams passed the evening
here. Have done but very little sewing
The boys & Joshua played cards.
Chess wasn’t the only game that people played in the 19th century. As Evelina noted today, her sons and a friend named Joshua played cards. Perhaps Fred Ames played, too. The game they preferred was whist, a precursor of today’s contract bridge.
Whist was played according to rules established by the accepted authority, Edmond Hoyle, an Englishman in the 18th century who had codified explicit guidelines for various card games. Whist followed “a rigid set of rules, etiquette and techniques.”** Like bridge, it required four players, one deck of 52 cards (then known as a French deck), a bidding process, and trick taking. Trump was determined by the last card laid down and, unlike bridge, there was no dummy hand.
The Ames family loved playing whist. Oliver (3) often writes in his early journals of playing whist with his grandfather, Old Oliver. Night after wintry night, the men would play, the grandsons occasionally beating their grandfather. Evelina seldom writes of playing herself; she and her sisters-in-law usually sat to the side, conversing, sewing or reading.