Though croquet may conjure up images of the bourgeoisie tipping croquet mallets on a closely clipped lawn, there's actually much more to its storied past. The history of croquet suggests a slightly more rambunctious image, particularly as the game made its way from England (where it originated in the mid-19th century) to America. Here are some highlights:
The history of croquet in America has consisted mostly of a lightweight, less serious version of the British game - croquet equipment that could be played on a rough terrain. Only in the 1970s did the classic British croquet sets start to become popular in America.
The Boston Common served as a popular place for croquet in the 1890s, and it brought along with it a great deal of drinking, gambling, and other behavior that alarmed the local clergy enough for them to seek a ban on the croquet game. The clergy's opposition to the game proved to threaten the future and history of croquet in America.
Herbert Bayard Swope Sr, winner of the first Pulitzer Prize for Reporting in 1917, was a member of the famous Algonquin Round Table, a motley crew of writers, humorists, and intellectuals in the 1920s. When not imbibing in the bar of New York's famous Algonquin Hotel, the members of the Round Table were such avid fans of croquet that they even influenced how the croquet game is played today, led by rules revised by Swope.
No history of croquet would be complete without pointing out that Hollywood social life often revolved around the croquet game in the 1940s and 1950s. The Marx Brothers were among cinema's luminaries who enjoyed croquet, as did some of the most powerful studio heads, such as Sam Goldwyn and Daryl Zanuck.
With such a colorful past, it's no surprise that croquet continues to be a popular American pastime.