Saturday, August 27, 2016

Parlor Quoits, Bean-Bags, and Faba Baga - a History of "Cornhole" (the Game)

In 1885, in the face of increasing professionalization of previously recreational sports, one observer was at least cheered by the fact that “bean-bags” was still an innocent pastime:

Base ball is already spoilt as a recreation and pastime, and tennis is threatened with the same ruin from similar cases.  The gentle game of “bean-bags” seems to be about the only one which is able to withstand the tendency of the age towards “championships,” “science” and other mischievous developments.

Evening Star (Washington DC), June 22, 1885, page 2.

That would change more than a century later.  In the early 2000s, groups like the American Cornhole Association (2003) and the American Cornhole Organization (2005) established standards of play and started organizing professionally run events, tournaments and championships.  The renaissance of the game in has been well chronicled in book by Mark Rogers (Cornhole: Throwing Bags in a Hole, Chicago, Amalgam, 2011) and film by P. J. Nelson (Brotherhood of Bags: Cornholing America, Produced and Directed by P. J. Nelson, Do Good Productions, 2011).   

The early origins of the game, however, have remained  a mystery – a big “cornhole” in history.   

Let me [ahem] fill that hole.

The resurgence of the game in the last decade was centered in such Midwestern “Cornhole” hotbeds as Cincinnati and Chicago.  According to Frank Geers, President and CEO of the American Cornhole Organization, players in the Cincinnati/Kentucky region have called the game “Cornhole” for at least about forty or fifty years.  In Chicago, players traditionally called it simply, “Bags”; avoiding the uncomfortable double entendre implicit in the Cincinnati name (Google it). 

When the game first surfaced in the mid-1880s, the game was known alternatively as “Parlor Quoits” or “Bean-Bags.” But those names presented a minor difficulty; they were both ambiguous.  “Parlor quoits” was the name of an earlier indoor ring-toss-like game which, like “Cornhole,” was played with a game board – but with pegs and rings, instead of bags and holes.  “Bean-Bags” was the common name for a high-speed game of catch, using larger bean bags, which had been enjoying a run of popularity. 

In the late 1880s, America’s first large-scale toy manufacturer alleviated the confusion, giving the game a more distinctive and appropriate name:

Faba Baga.

Faba is the Latin word for “bean,” and Baga, I suppose, is about how Father Guido Sarducci (Google it, kids) might-a pronounce-a the English-a word-a “bag”-a.  The name stuck, and was used regularly for several decades.  It’s two-sized, double-holed board, added another element of difficulty and fun:


Although the initial fad came and went in just a few years, the game never completely disappeared.  Since its inception, it has been regularly described in educational, exercise and recreational books, manuals and texts, as a recommended game for picnics, parties and schools.  Over the years, the game has gone by numerous names; Bag Board, Dummy Boards, Dadhole, Doghouse, Baggo, Bags, Corn Toss, Bean Bag, Bean Toss, Soft Horseshoes, Indiana Horseshoes, to name a few. 

“Cornhole” is currently in vogue, although the reason is unclear – and many people probably like it that way.  Although some players may insist (and for some it may be true) that the name merely refers to throwing a bag of corn (instead of beans) through a hole, the word, “cornhole,” has a long, uncomfortable history as something else entirely:

Dictionary of American Underworld Lingo, New York, Twayne Publishers, 1950.[i]

Yeah - you may need to Google “catamite” too – I know I did.
                                                                                 
The word “Cornhole” first came to my attention during the 1990s, when MTV’s Beavis and Butthead frequently invoked the name of “Cornholio” – and even then it wasn’t quite clear what it meant or why.  I only recently learned that the game I have always called “bean-bag toss” had a more colorful moniker. Perhaps Beavis and Butthead had some influence in taking the word mainstream?

The choice of the name, itself, may be intended, at least in part, as a poke in the eye of polite society; a proud nod to the game’s supposed blue-collar roots.

Such class warfare was evident when a reporter from the Eastside of Cincinnati visited the city’s Westside to report on the growing popularity of the sport:
                                                                                                                                                                    
“Well, um,” [she] stammered, “how come I’ve never heard of it?”

“Because People on the East Side are afraid to say cornhole,” Boomie said with a booming laugh.


The game was already popular in the rural Midwest more than a century ago:

A favorite amusement in the country especially at church socials, is faba baga or bean bag. 

Rock Island Daily Argus (Illinois), February 27, 1891, page 5.

But surprisingly, perhaps, for a sport with such folksy pretentions, the roots of the game may actually lie among East Coast elites.  When the game came to Louisville, Kentucky in 1887, for example, it was said to be an import from the summering resorts of Gilded Age glitterati:

The latest fad is the game of “Bean Bags,” which is now prevailing alarmingly.  It is an importation from Long Branch and Saratoga, where it had a successful run, taking the place of “progressive euchre,” “blind man’s buff,” etc.  A polished board, four feet by two, is set at an angle of twenty degrees.  A hole four inches in diameter is cut in the upper end. . . . The game is having a big run in the upper-tendom, and is said to be very amusing and entertaining. . . . [Louisville Post.

Semi-Weekly Interior Journal (Stanford, Kentucky), April 5, 1887, page 4.

The game was also popular among the political class:

Bean-bag parties are all the rage in Washington, and society belles are becoming very expert at the new game. . . .  Many young society ladies have become quite expert at pitching the little bags, and show excellent judgment and skill in accurately gauging the distance and the strength necessary to be exerted. . . . The sport is full of interest and bean-bag boards are now found in every household which expects to be considered up to the times. – Washington Post.

Murfreesboro Index (North Carolina), December 16, 1887, page 4.

The earliest inklings of the fad appeared in a widely circulated article[ii] first published in late 1883.  It described a board nearly identical to modern, tournament-legal boards – the same proportions (although slightly smaller); the same size hole (although square instead of round); the same hole placement (9 inches from the top); the same size bags (6 inches square); and the same rise from the front of the board to the back of the board – 9 inches (although today’s specs elevate the front of the board 3 inches above the ground, with the back 9 inches higher).  One bonus feature of the old game, however, was one extra-large bag – the “Jumbo” – which counted for extra bonus points:

A NEW GAME.

For Holiday and Winter Amusement.

The new game of “Bean bag” is becoming very popular among our socially inclined young people, and “Bean-bag” parties are all the rage.  The game is quite a novel one, and considerable skill can be developed in playing it.  . . .  First, a board three feet long and one and a half feet wide, smooth on one side . . . .  One end of the board rests on the floor and the other is raised about nine inches by means of a prop, so it presents a sloping surface to the player.  Nine inches from the top a hole six inches square is cut.  Next make five cloth bags six inches square (when finished) and loosely fill them with beans; and one bag (called “Jumbo”), size six by ten inches.  Each player stands five to eight paces from the board and throws all the bags, trying to make them go through the hole.  Every bag going through the hole counts the player ten; those landing on the platform count five each; and all falling on the floor discount, ten.  “Jumbo” must be thrown last, and counts or discounts twice as much as one of the smaller bags. . . . – [Medina, N. Y., Cor. Buffalo Express.

Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan), December 19, 1883, page 8.

The game was not only enjoyed by America’s social elite, it was invented by one of their own.  In September 1883, about three months before the earliest accounts of the game surfaced, the United States Patent Office issued a patent for the game to Heyliger A. de Windt, a Harvard grad with close family and friendship ties to at least five Presidents of the United States (hint: his middle name was Adams, and he named one of his sons Delano).

In 1885, an actual president may also have enjoyed the game.  Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, a long-running, popular periodical with a national circulation, put an image of President Cleveland on its cover, enjoying a game of “bean bags” (note the pile of bean-bags at the bottom of the image):

President Cleveland in the North Woods – scene on the piazza of the Prospect House, Prospect Lake.  The President and Dr. Ward enjoying the game of “Bean Bag.”



But since the name of the game was ambiguous at the time, it might actually depict the earlier game of “Bean-Bags.” It is unclear; but bean-bag games were clearly enjoying a period of widespread popularity.

The history of bean-bag toss comes from two major sources; “parlor quoits” and regular quoits before it, and bean bags.  “Parlor quoits,” which had been around since the mid-1870s, was an indoor version of the ancient game of Quoits.  Bean-Bags, on the other hand, were relatively new.  They were invented, as a recreational device, in the late-1850s, and popularized by a Boston-based fitness guru in the 1860s.


Early Pre-History – Quoits and Horseshoes

“Cornhole” or “Bags” has its deepest roots in the ancient and honorable British game of “Quoits,” which dates to at least Shakespeare’s time:

Doll Tearsheet: Why does the prince love him so, then?
Falstaff: Because their legs are both of a bigness, and he plays at quoits well . . . .

King Henry IV, Second Part, Act II, Scene IV.

Americans may be more familiar with quoit’s poorer, yet more egalitarian, relative; horseshoes:

Rustics in the country, for want of proper quoits, frequently play with horse-shoes; and hence, in many places, the quoit is called a shoe.

Jehosaphat Aspin, Ancient Customs, Sports, and Pastimes, of the English, London, J. Harris, 1832, page 198.

John Trotter Brockett, A glossary of North Country Words, Newcastle upon Tyne, E. Charnley, 1829.

Horseshoes and “Cornhole” are so similar that Matt Guy, one of the game’s greatest champions, was a top-ten ranked horseshoes player before switching to bean-bag tossing in the early 2000s.[iii]

In quoits and horseshoes, the goal is to encircle the target, a “hob” or post, with a thrown “quoit” (like a discus with a hole in the middle) or horseshoe.  Bean-bag toss turns the game on its head.  The intent is to encircle a thrown object with the target – put the bag in the hole. 

Bean-bag toss was not the first game that involved throwing things into a hole from a distance, although it is unclear whether or how much influence the earlier game had on the development of “Cornhole.”

Polynesians threw “quoits” into a hole long before Cornholers holed their first corn.  In the 1850s, visitors to the National Institute in Washington DC (now the Smithsonian Institute) could see a set of Polynesian “quoits”: 

A Popular Catalogue of the Extraordinary Curiosities in the National Institute, Washington DC, A. Hunter, page 18.

(Did you notice how the Pennsylvanian who wrote the commentary switched up the units of length to make his peeps seem more impressive?  Sixty-three feet is only twenty-one yards – not all that much more than 18.)

The Polynesian “quoits” were on public display in Washington DC, and the inventor of bean-bag toss majored in Natural History at Harvard; so it is possible, I suppose, that Polynesian Quoits could have had some influence on the game; but a direct connection seems tenuous.  

There are two other games, however, that may have had a more immediate influence.  When Heyliger Adams de Windt invented his version of “Parlor Quoits” in 1882, ring-toss-like “Parlor Quoits” were barely ten years old, and “Bean Bags” were less than two decades old and still very popular.


Late Pre-History – Parlor Quoits

Since both quoits and horseshoes are played with heavy iron implements, it was difficult to take the game indoors in cold or wet weather; “Parlor Quoits” to the rescue, with softer, less destructive materials suitable for indoor use. 

This advertisement, from 1872, uses the term, “parlor quoits,” without explanation (the image shows the game of Le Cercle, apparently a too-complicated variation of croquet):

The Boston Almanac and Business Directory 1872
In 1873, Friend W. Smith invented a portable, cushioned game board suitable for indoor or outdoor quoits, which may provide some sense of what “Parlor Quoits” looked like in 1872:



Several other indoor quoits patents followed, and rubber quoits were available by the early 1880s.

Harrisburg Telegraph (Pennsylvania), August 24, 1882, page 4.
 
Cincinnati Enquirer, October 17, 1882, page 8.

One patent from the 1870s signals two advances that anticipate, without necessarily predicting, elements of the bean-bag toss game.  In 1875, Charles Brown of Brooklyn, New York patented an indoor quoits game with soft, sand-filled leather quoits; not quite a bean bag – but getting closer.  The leather quoit, however, was in the form of a ring.  The game had pegs, over which to throw the quoit, but also had holes in which the quoit could land.  The board lay flat on the ground, and the holes were only as deep as the board was thick, so landing a single quoit in the hole block any other quoits:




Late Pre-History – Bean-Bags

Imagine a world without bean-bags.  It seems unbelievable.  But as simple as they seem, someone had to make the effort extend their use to recreation.  Although beans had long been sold in bags, and laborers no doubt threw those bags around every day, purpose-built bean-bags for recreational use are a relatively recent advancement. 

A mid-19th Century fitness guru named Dio Lewis claimed to have invented them in about 1856, after becoming dissatisfied with the difficulties of using inflated rubber balls in the gym.  In 1862, he wrote:

The use of small bags filled with beans, for gymnastic exercise, was suggested to my mind six years since, while attempting to devise a series of games with large rubber balls . . .  but was constantly annoyed at the irregularities resulting from the difficulty in catching them.  When the balls were but partially inflated, it was observed the hand could better seize them. This at length suggested the bean bags. 

Dio Lewis, A.M., M. D., The New Gymnastics for Men, Woimen, and Children, Boston, Ticknor and Fields, 1862.


Dio Lewis (from, Fred E. Leonard, Pioneers of Modern Physical Training,
New York, Physical Directors’ Society of the YMCA, 1910, page 44.)
A few years later, in the tenth edition of his groundbreaking work, Lewis added more details to the story; answering the burning question of which came first – bean bags or corn bags.  Short answer – corn bags were first; but bean bags were better:

At first they were made very large and filled with corn.  Then wheat was thought to be an improvement.  In a town where neither corn nor wheat could be conveniently procured, the dealer asked if I could not use beans.  These were found to be just the thing.

Dio Lewis, A.M., M. D., The New Gymnastics for Men, Woimen, and Children, Boston, Ticknor and Fields, Tenth Edition, 1868.

Through Dio Lewis’ influence, or otherwise, bean-bags exercises became a widespread, common practice.

But not everyone liked the gymnastics craze.  At least one observer preferred outdoor games to ritual gymnastic routines:

The Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia), October 14, 1870, Page 2.

Lewis’ book lists dozens of exercises – not games.  Most of them are just different methods of throwing, using different postures, different angles and different muscles.  Some of the games involve throwing bags between players, or passing bags from player to player:


 


Lewis’ book did not describe any bean-bag target throwing exercises, as such, but he suggested that all of the bag throwing exercises would be enhanced by throwing the bags through hoops suspended between the players and above their heads:


                                                               
One of exercises described in the book became a popular game played at church socials, parties, and picnics.   The game involved partners, or lines of partners, throwing bags at each other simultaneously; catching and switching hands before throwing the bag back to their partner - rapid-fire - until one or both of them drop their bags.  Hilarity ensues:



The New York Times even recommended the game in 1872:

[I]n a country house, on a wet day, or with nothing else to do, to take a bean-bag in each hand, stand opposite your antagonist – the young and fair – at about ten paces’ distance, prepared for action, is a moment worth living for.  Your enemy commences by throwing the bag held in her right hand at you, which you are to catch in your left, at the same time throwing your right-hand bag at her; then you must quickly pass the one caught from left to right, and throw it.  The game thus proceeds; and as each player is in the possession of two bags, a keen look out for squalls is necessary.  I need hardly say that, after about three minutes’ serious play, the whole thing ends in a regular romp;’ the fair one, having perhaps failed to catch a bag, sends them all at your head anyhow. . . .

“You had much better come back and play bean-bags.”

The New York Times, April 7, 1872, page 4.

The game was still being played years later when members of the Staten Island Ladies Club for Outdoor Sports:

Were . . . ready to join a side for “bean bags,” and the air was soon filled with laughter and shouts of pretty merriment as the nervous fingers clutched the elusive bean bags.

St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 11, 1880, page 2. 

Lake County Star (Chase, Michigan), January 29, 1880, page 3.

President Cleveland watched a game of “Bean-Bags” 1885.  But since there was a new game on the block, by the same name, it is unclear which version he enjoyed.  A new game had just recently been invented.


Bean-Bags, Parlor Quoits, Faba Baga
                                                      

In September of 1883, the United States Patent Office issued a patent number 285,396 to Heyliger Adams de Windt for, “Game Apparatus for Playing Parlor-Quoits.”  The broadest patent claim describes the mdern game in its simplest form::

1. A game-board having means for supporting the same in an inclined position, and having an opening through which an object may be tossed, substantially as described.
. . .
5. The game apparatus comprising a series of bags filled with beans or equivalent material, and a game-board having an opening through which said bags may be tossed, substantially as described.



Apart from the bell and the square, centrally placed hole, the only difference between the original patent and the modern game is the box below the board.  The bell and its support were optional, and provided additional interesting scoring features.  Under de Windt’s proposed scoring system, a bag passing under the support would subtract five points from the thrower’s total; ringing bell – ten points.

Three months later, the growing fad was widely reported in newspapers across the country.  Within the year, similar articles and other descriptions of the game would appear in dozens more publications – and these are just the ones that are available in digital archives now; presumably, the same or similar articles appeared in hundreds of publications that are not yet available online.  Most of the country would have had the opportunity to learn of the game before 1885.  The game’s popularity continued to grow and it remained a fad for several years.

The game may have become even more accessible through the work of the Morton E. Converse company of Winchedon, Massachusetts (the first large-scale toy manufacturer in the United States), who manufactured the game and sold it under the trade-name, “Faba Baga.” 
John D. Champlin, The Young Folks’ Cyclopaedia of Games and Sports, New York, H. Holt and Company, page 1890, page 75.
 
It is unclear when Coverse started manufacturing the game and/or using the name “Faba Baga.”  The earliest advertisements for the game that I have seen in print, date to early 1888.  But a comment in an article hyping toys for the Christmas season of 1888 use the name, as though it had been around for awhile:

But the old games, Faba baga, ring toss, parlor quoits, and others, come in finer forms, with better finish and appointments, and are not more costly than in former years.

The New York Sun, December 16, 1888, page 8.

And, by 1891, Morton E. Converse & Co. was known for producing the game:


They are also the manufacturers of the celebrated bean bag game of Faba Baga, made under special patent owned by this firm.

Inland Massachusetts Illustrated, Worcester, Massachusetts, Elstner Publishing Company, 1891, page 148.

It is unclear whether Converse’s patent refers to a license or assignment from de Windt or some other patent of their own.  I have not been able to find any such patents issued to Morton E. Converse or his company, and have not been able to locate or identify any other similar patents issued between 1884 and 1888.  And, Morton E. Converse & Co. is known to have manufactured toys under license to or by assignment of the patents of others.[iv]  It is certainly possible. 

Although Heyliger de Windt was born and raised in New York, he had plenty of Massachusetts connections.  He went to high school and college in Massachusetts, married a woman from New Bedford, Massachusetts, and was a member of the Adams Family, the old Boston family that spawned two Presidents John Adams (his great-great grandfather) and John Quincy Adams (his great-great uncle).


One feature of the earliest accounts of the game that is missing now, is the “Jumbo” bag – a larger bag, to be thrown last, and which counted double in the scoring.  “Faba Baga” introduced another scoring wrinkle; instead of one larger bag that counted double – it provided a second, smaller hole, that counted for more points. 

 In the form sold at the toy-stores, the Faba Baga board is supported in an inclined position by a frame at the back, which folds up when not in use and forms a rack to hold the bean bags.

In another game of Bean Bags, resembling Faba Baga, the board, which is long and narrow, is laid flat on the floor.  There are no holes in it, but it is divided by cross lines into spaces which are given different values, and the Bean Bags score according to the space on which they rest when thrown.

John D. Champlin, The Young Folks’ Cyclopaedia of Games and Sports, New York, H. Holt and Company, page 1890, page 75.

But before it disappeared, the name was commonly used in descriptions of the game:

The young ladies of the Baptist Church will give a “Faba-baga Party” at the residence of Mr. J. R. Vandiver on tomorrow (Friday) evening, at 8 o’clock.  This will be a very unique entertainment, and all who go will be pleasantly entertained.

The Anderson Intelligencer (Anderson Court House, South Carolina), January 30, 1890, page 3.

Children’s Parties

When planning to be social this month, don’t forget the young folks.  If you have a Sunday School class of boys or girls, invite them to spend an evening in your home.  It is well to proved a variety of games, among which “Faba Baga” is a good standby as it is a favorite with both boys and girls.  Handsome boards are for sale in the shops, but one may easily be made at home.

Orchard and Garden (Little Silver, New Jersey), Volume 12, March, 1890, page 59.

The amusement room at the National Women’s Christian Temperance Union Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois was well stocked, with:

. . . numerous games of skill, such as chess, checkers, crokinole, faba baga, base ball, croquet, authors, etc.  The large variety of games will provide for a number of members at a time.

John Josephg Flinn, Chicago, the Marvelous City of the West, 1892, page 1989. 

The “Faba Baga” game was successful enough that it became a generic word for the bean-bag toss game, before disappearing from the language in the early-1900s.  The latest examples of “Faba Baga” in print that I could find date from 1935 (Asbury Park, New Jersey), 1921 (Pittsburgh) and 1907 (Kentucky).

But the game lived on.

Carolyn Sherwin, The Childrens Book of Games and Parties, Chicago, M. A. Donohue, 1913, page 19.



Heyliger Adams de Windt


Heyliger Adams de Windt, the apparent inventor of the bean-bag toss game, came from a long line of old Knickerbockers (the Dutchmen – not the basketball players) and Boston Blue-Bloods (not Celtics).  His great-grandfather, Colonel William Stephens Smith, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel for gallantry at the Battle of Trenton, where Washington crossed the Delaware.  He also served on the personal staffs of the Marquis de Lafayette and George Washington during the Revolutionary War.  He was one of five officers selected to accompany George Washington at his inauguration.

The Colonel’s wife, De Windt’s great-grandmother, was Abigail Adams; the youngest daughter of President John Adams and his wife Abigail.  The Colonel and the younger Abigail’s daughter, Caroline Amelia married, John Peter de Windt of Fishkill, New York; the son of John Peter de Windt of New York, who had made his fortune as a sugar planter in the Dutch West Indies.

The Ottawa Free Trader (Ottawa, Illinois), July 7, 1888, page 7.

The Pokeepsie Evening Enterprise (Poughkeepsie, New York), May 8, 1903, page 4.

Through his Dutch West Indies background, Heyliger de Windt had a slightly more attenuated connection to another major Revolutionary War event; the so-called, “First Salute.”


Barbara Tuchman, The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution, New York, Knopf/Random House, 1988.


On November 16, of 1776, the brig, Andrew Doria, flying the Continental Colors of the American colonies that had declared independence barely four months earlier, sailed into port on the Island of St. Eustatius.  Upon arrival, the Andrew Doria fired a 13-gun salute.  The governor of the island responded with an eleven gun salute from Fort Oranje – the first time a foreign power officially acknowledged the independence of the United States.  

The Governor who ordered the salute, Johannes de Graaff was married to the daughter of former governor, Abraham Heyliger.  The previous three governors of the island had been named, Johannes Heyliger, Jan de Windt and Abraham Heyliger.  Although the “First Salute” was fired from Fort Oranje, a second gun battery, located on a smaller, south-facing bay, is known as Fort de Windt.

It is unclear whether Heyliger A. de Windt was a direct descendent of any one of those characters, but St. Eustatius (and other Caribbean islands including what is now St. Croix in the American Virgin Islands) was an intermingling nest of numerous Heyliger and de Windt families that were all connected to each other in one way or another.

And they may all be connected – ultimately – to the game of “Cornhole” – who knew?

For his part, Heyliger Adams de Windt made a name for himself out West.  Shortly after graduation from Harvard in 1881, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he got his start as an unpaid intern, sweeping floors and dusting shoe boxes for the C. H. Fargo wholesale shoe company.  In January 1882 he became a salesman for the company, covering the territory of Minnesota and the pre-statehood Dakota Territory; a position he held for one year, before being promoted to head the company’s rubber department.[v] 

He joined the Harvard Club of Chicago shortly after arrival, the Union Club a year or so later, and in 1887, became a charter member of the University Club of Chicago.[vi]  It is possible, I suppose, that he may have helped entertain Theodore Roosevelt in 1884, when he had his political coming-out party at the Republican National Convention of 1884, which was held in Chicago; and was the moment in time when the idiom, “jump on the bandwagon” came into national use”.  De Windt (class of 1881) and Roosevelt (class of 1880) had both been members of the Hasty Pudding Club at Harvard.[vii]

His Presidential connections did not end there.  Heyliger de Windt named one of his sons, “Delano”; reportedly after close family friend Frederick Delano, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s uncle.  When Delano de Windt was married in 1916, the best man at the wedding was James A. Garfield, President James A. Garfield’s grandson.[viii]  And, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s personal papers include a letter to, or from, Heyliger de Windt (Sr. or Jr. not specified)[ix]


Bean-Bags and Football

During the early years of bean-bag toss, it was reported regularly as a pastime at society parties. Within a few years, it was often reported at church socials and country parties.  Over the years, it became a staple children’s game.  Today, it is closely associated with football game tailgating.  Many of the bean-bag board manufacturers make custom board with your favorite team’s logo and colors.  In 2006, Cincinnati Bengal’s quarterback Carson Palmer even held a “Cornhole Classic” charity event, in lieu of the standard NFL charity softball game.

Although there are no documented reports of the game being played at football games in the 1880s, it is not impossible to imagine.  Heyliger A. de Windt, the inventor of “Cornhole” was a fan of the game.  He played freshman football at Harvard[x] - and he was good!



He also refereed high school football games while in college.  His son, Heyliger A. de Windt Jr. was even the manager for Harvard’s unbeaten (with one tie) championship football team in 1910.[xi]

1910 Harvard undefeated football team – a scoreless tie against Yale kept them from a perfect season.  The guy in the high, cellulose collar in the upper left corner may be their manager, Heyliger de Windt Jr. (Photo from GoCrimson.com).

 The apple (the son and the game) did not fall far from the tree.

May your bags always fall in the hole.




[i] The Oxford English Dictionary dates this sense of the word to the 1920s.
[ii] In addition to New York and Michigan, nearly identical versions of the article appeared in newspapers in at least Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kansas and Louisiana within weeks of its initial publication.
[iv] “This enterprise was started in 1878, in Waterville, with twelve employees and very limited room, under the firm name of Mason & Converse, Mr. Converse superintending and manufacturing from his own designs and patents.” Alfred Free, Winchendon: A Retrospect of One Hundred and Fifty Years, Winchendon, 1914.
[v] Second Report of the Secretary of the Class of 1881 of Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, W. H. Wheeler, 1884.
[vi] University Club Chicago Yearbook for 1898.
[vii] Catalogue of the Officers and Members of the Hasty Pudding Club in Harvard University, Cambridge, W. H. Wheeler, 1884.
[viii] The New York Tribune, June 18, 1916, page 3, column 3.
[ix] Franklin Delano Roosevelt Digital Collection, maintained by Marist University, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Papers as President: The President's Personal File, Part 8: PPF 3501-4000, 1933-1945 | Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, Series 1: President’s Personal File 2501-4000, PPF 35584 – De Windt, Heyliger..
[x] The Harvard Crimson, January 25, 1898, page 55.
[xi] Walter Camp, Spalding’s Official Foot Ball Guide for 1910.