Friday, February 26, 2010

The origins of the game "Chinese Checkers"

It isn't from China, or even Asia. It's from America, via Germany, via America again, via the British:

Chinese checkers - History
[...] Despite being called “Chinese Checkers”, the game did not originate in China or any part of Asia, nor is it a variation of checkers. The game was invented in Germany in 1893 under the name “Stern-Halma”, as a variation on the older American game of Halma.[1] The “Stern” (German for star) refers to the star-shape of the board (in contrast with the square board of Halma). The name “Chinese checkers” originated in the United States, as a marketing scheme by Bill and Jack Pressman in 1928. The Pressman company's game was originally called "Hop Ching Checkers". [...]

It eventually made it's way to China, via the Japanese. Whodathunkit? More here:

The Mystique of Chinese Checkers
You may have grown up playing with one. And, if you rummage through your attic, chances are you may still find that game board with the six-pointed star called Chinese checkers. Despite its simplicity and popularity with people of all ages, the curious thing about Chinese checkers is that it is neither Chinese in origin nor a game of checkers.

The origin of Chinese checkers can be traced to "Halma," that became popular in Great Britain in the 1870s, and which in turn was based on an older British board game called "Hoppity." The six-pointed star, or "Stern," was later introduced in 1892 into the board by the German game company, Ravensburger, and called the game "Stern-Halma." Then, in 1928, latching on to the interest in the Oriental mystique sweeping the world at that time, such as the introduction of Mah Jong in 1923 and the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922, J. Pressman & Co. called it "Chinese Checkers." A craze for the game hit America in the 1930s. Despite the popularity of the game, its past was not totally obliterated and is still called Halma in Germany where it is still played under the original rules. [...]

I ended up researching this topic a bit, because Patrick bought a foot-stool at a thrift shop today, that turned out to have a board game compartment under the cushion, with games like chess, checkers, and Chinese checkers. We were speculating about the origin of Chinese checkers, so I looked it up.

There is more history, with photos too, here:

Halma & Chinese Checkers


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