Item: Game Table
Accession # 1960.3.1
The elite class of colonial America would often hold dinner parties for friends, family, and colleagues. After dinner was finished, the women would retire to the parlor to gossip and entertain themselves. Meanwhile, the men would remain at the dinner table to discuss business and politics over more drinks, before joining the ladies in the ladies in the parlor. At that point everyone would take part in the afternoon entertainments, which often included gaming or gambling. Such gaming would take place at any one of the gaming tables the family may own.
The game table in Wilton’s collection is an English Queen Anne Triple Top Game Table. This mahogany game table was beautifully crafted with elegant detail, most likely by a skilled cabinet maker, between 1725 and 1750. The table has two playing surfaces: a solid mahogany surface and a red felt surface with carved square corners. The square corners are there to place candle holders for games being played during the night. The red felt surface can been seen on the gaming table today. The design of gaming tables has changed very little between the early eighteenth century and the mid eighteenth century.
Once the Randolph men and their male guests finished their drinks and discussion they would head to the game table to talk about their business dealings and any other issues that would have come up. Not only would they talk about business, but they would also engage in friendly gambling. In the 1700s and on, card playing was a desirable social skill. Games such as backgammon, chess, and checkers could be played on the solid mahogany surface, where as traditional card games such as whisk, poker, and all-fours would be played on the red felt surface. Whisk is a four person, plain-trick game played with a standard fifty-two card deck. Poker was another popular game being played. It is also played with a standard fifty-two card deck. Poker players did not have partners and could bet as much as they would dare. The game All-Fours was another popular game being played during this time. It usually was a four person game with two sets of partners, played with a fifty-two card deck. The men typically gambled their slaves, money, horses, and parts of their plantations. Many of these men gained and lost portions of fortunes and property while playing these game. This game table provided an escape from the everyday worries of plantation life and is where a man could sit to have a good time with friends and strangers alike,