#MyrtleMondays: Words with Friends–Victorian Style!

Are you a fan of Words with Friends (or its low-tech forebear, Scrabble)? Are you a Wordament Grandmaster (Level 193 and counting!), or as we knew it in the 20th century, Boggle? Word-forming parlor games were a popular pastime in the 19th century, too, and I have one to share with you today.

McLoughlin Brothers’ Logomachy: Or War of Words debuted at the 1874 Cincinnati Industrial Exposition, where it won a Highest Premium (or silver medal) for best new parlor game.

1881 edition, with glorious Victorian advertising art

Our modern consumer culture was born in the Victorian era, and affordable amusements like boxed card games abounded. Period catalogues from McLoughlin Bros. are filled with scores of games, and editions of games, in every price range.

Circa 1895 McLoughlin Bros. trade catalogue, featuring a 50 cent edition of Logomachy and other card games. Games came in several price tiers.

The rules are similar to the card game casino, and would have been familiar to players of the time. And they’re easy to pick up for modern players, too! Cards are printed with individual letters of the alphabet (and charming illustrations—my 1889 version has children in 18th century costume), and the object is to collect as many cards as possible by forming words. Unlike Scrabble, where you try to use as many letters from your hand as you can, in Logomachy you can only use one at a time. The suspense comes in declaring your intention to form a word, and racing your opponents to be the first to finish, before one of them claims your word and all the points. Uncommon letters like Q, Z, X, and J are Prize Cards, and contribute to higher scores.

A complete set from 1889, with cards, instruction manual, and imitation leather box.

Logomachy remained popular for decades. McLoughlin Bros. was acquired by Milton Bradley in 1920, which continued to publish the game through the 1950s.

1922 ad for Logomachy, now marketed as a children’s game

Logomachy is a fun and fast-paced game for competitive word buffs. If you don’t happen to have your own set, you could easily play with a set of Scrabble tiles, or print your own letter cards. You’ll need 72 cards with the following distribution of letters:

A comeback for Logomachy is long overdue! But until new versions are made, sets can be found (in varying condition and sometimes missing parts) on the antique and vintage market.

Challenge your friends to a war of words today!