Pigs in Clover

Eli Whitney Museum

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For Families

A beginning marble maze. The goal of this maze game is to collect three pigs (marbles) in the pen (The Center Ring).

A Simple Idea. All games begin with a simple Idea. Often it's so simple that no written rules are needed. The goal of this maze game is to collect three pigs (marbles) in the pen (The Center Ring).

This is called a dexterity game. It tests hand eye coordination.

All Games have beginnings, middles and ends. That's a big idea. In Pigs in Clover the beginnings, the start, can be anyplace on the board. The middles are the gates that make the marbles hard or easy to control. The end, the goal, is the pen.

When you build your game, you must make the rules. You will create the beginnings, middles and ends. You may use pictures and/ or numbers, colors or shapes to announce your rules.

Children as young as 5 can construct and play this game.

It's a good introduction to hammering. It's a good introduction to planning.

Children up to 9 will enjoy the construction challenges.

The design challenges will find creativity in all ages.

In 1978, when donating a copy of the cartoon to the Museum, Marion Joyce (a long-term board member of Selchow & Righter, the agent for the game) stated that G.M. Crandall, the game's inventor, applied for a patent in February 1889.

S&R became agent for the game shortly thereafter. In the first few years, orders were in excess of 8,000 a day. Mr. Righter had so many orders that he decided to fill only local requests. Out-of-town orders were filed away.

The game was played at home, on busses, in the street, on park benches, etc. The game became a national preoccupation in the United States, prompting a number of newspaper articles. Senators took the game into the Senate Chambers during debates, and this started a frenzy of orders. Benjamin Harrison (US President from 1889-1893) is said to have played the game in the White House instead of tending to politics.

About the Cartoon:

The man on right in the green vest and trousers has the word Watterson printed on his shirtsleeve near the cuff. The Pig Pen in the center of the gameboard resembles the White House. On each glass marble is a sketch of a well known politician of the time: Randall, Hill, Cleveland, Whitney. Benjamin Harrison (Republican) beat Grover Cleveland (Democratic incumbent) for the presidency in the 1888 election. Cleveland had a popular plurality, but lost the election, receiving 168 electoral votes to 233 for Harrison.

Tammany in New York is said to have cost Cleveland the election. In the subsequent election, Cleveland beat Harrison and returned to the White House.

About the game:

The container bottom of wood, covered with printed paper, is the gameboard. Different colored cardboard pieces , representing "fences", are glued perpendicular to the bottom, about 2cm apart, each with an opening opposite to a solid side so that they encircle the center. In the center is a wood covered round red pigpen with an open doorway. There are five 1cm diameter terra-cotta marbles, 2 mottled red, 1 gray, 1 yellowish, 1 beige, representing the pigs. The cardboard container lid, pictures a man with a stick and farm hat, chasing pigs into a shed. Game instructions are printed in black at the bottom of the cover picture.


Warman's Antique American Games (ISBN 0-695-8921904)
Wonderful World of Toys, Games, and Dolls (ISBN 0-911594-08-6).

Add Traps

Add a Roof: Spider Web

Use Colors

Change the Grid

Tell a Story

  1. Check your Parts
  2. 5.5"x5.5" wood block



    Rubber bands


    Straight edge

  3. Find the center.
  4. Take the straight edge, and draw two lines diagonally across the wood block, making an "X".

  5. Draw circles.
  6. Place the trammel in the center of the wood block. Hammer a nail in partially to make a compass. Draw a circle for each hole with a pencil.

  7. Stop/Think/Design.
  8. Now it's time to think about how your game is going to work. What is the objectives? Will it be easy or hard? Go back to the challenge to review. Make sure you design and color before you move on to the next step.

  9. Add the nails.
  10. Hammer the nails into the wood block using the circles you've drawn as a pattern. note: space the nails at least 1" apart.

  11. Make wall and gates.
  12. Wrap the rubber bands around the nails. Make sure you leave an opening, for the marble to fit through on the two inside circles. The outside circles is closed completely.

  13. Play.

Mark Twain

We discovered this game in the writings of Mark Twain. Actually Twain scholar David Sloan pointed it out as we planned hands on projects for Hartford’s Mark Twain Days.
The game was a run away fad in the 1880’s. Ask children to identify current fads.

Comprehensive Arts

We construct this game with all of New Haven’s 3rd graders. They visit New Haven’s Museums. We use the game to discuss creativity. We all start with the same boards, nails and compass. Will the final games be the same? What are some of the ways we can make differences?


This is an advanced idea, worth starting to understand. Grid lines organize space. You can find them in maps. A football field is a grid. Many paintings begin with grids. Grids may be constructed with straight or circular lines (as they are in this game).

The Math of Centers

In Construction we teach a carpenter’s trick. You could measure the board and divide by 2 to find the board’s center. Or you could draw lines from corner to corner. In 10th grade Geometry,you will learn the proof.

Note: drawing along a straight edge may take some practice.

The Math of Complexity

Challenge a child to play the game with one marble. It’s a snap.
Add a second marble. As is this twice as hard? Or more than twice as hard?
Even young children will explain that you have to control both marbles and the interaction of the two.

Dividing by 6

A neat feature of circles: the compass that draws a circle can also be used to divide a circle into 6 parts.

Write rules.

The game offers a useful writing challenge. Leading questions:
What is the name of the game?
What is the goal?
Where is the start?
Are there other rules?

Thought Problems

What’s a fad?

In 1899, Pigs in Clover became a fad. A fad is huge popularity that usually lasts only a short time. It’s not clear where the word fad comes from. Other words for the same idea: mania, craze.

Write a sentence that uses the idea and word of fad accurately.

For example:

Yo-yo's become a fad every few years.

Make a list of fads.

What is a dexterity toy?

Pigs in Clover is a dexterity toy. Dexterity means hand skill. A dexterity toy usually requires hand coordination only.

Marbles are a dexterity toy.

Make a list of 5 dexterity toys. Ask your parents or grandparents for help.

Marble Maze

Marble Maze

Add Traps

Add Traps

Add a Roof: Spider Web

Add a Roof: Spider Web

Use Colors

Use Colors

Change the Grid

Change the Grid

Tell a Story

Tell a Story

Dividing by 6

Dividing by 6

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