I would really appreciate it if someone could explain to me the meaning of three American parlour games of the 19th century. I am now translating a novel where these games are mentioned and would like to provide a footnote for the readers saying how exactly those games were played. Hopefully, someone can help :) These are the names of the games (for children): Post Office, Hunt the Keyhole, Dumb Orator.

Thank you!

  • You seem to have it answered here
    – Steve Bird
    Jan 28 '16 at 21:10
  • Yes, Steve, I decided to post this question in two communities, as it is related to both history, and the English language. If you think that I'd better delete the question here, I can do it. But, hopefully, someone from this community might provide some insights, as well. Jan 28 '16 at 21:23
  • It's not necessary to delete it here. There is no SE rule against cross-posting.
    – user12566
    Jan 29 '16 at 0:45

Dumb orator is already explained in the other SE.

"Post Office" does not refer to the 20th century kissing game. It was played by the following rules:

Each one of the participants writes a poem, anecdote, essay, or a letter to some person, either present or absent. Any one who chooses to do so, can disguise his handwriting. The papers are folded and addressed, and then deposited in a covered box placed on the table. A postmaster is chosen. The postmaster opens each letter, first announcing to whom it is directed, and then reads it aloud. The players try to guess who wrote each letter, the winner being the one who guesses the most correct. A side object is to write amusing letters.

"Hunt the Keyhole" is not a game. It is just a description of what you have to do when returning drunk to the house in the dark, or when returning to a door with which you are unfamiliar, like that of an inn. In the 19th century, porches were often unlit and doors had a wide variety of locking arrangements, so finding the keyhole could be difficult late at night.

  • 7
    What are the sources for this?
    – user12566
    Jan 28 '16 at 23:15
  • 1
    Tyler Durden, Stack Exchange, Jan 28, 2016. Jan 28 '16 at 23:37
  • @Tyler Durden Thank you for explaining the 'Post Office. As to the other game, the thing is that it is two 18-year-old girls from a rich family playing the 'Hunt the Keyhole' game during the lunch at their place. That must have been something different. Jan 29 '16 at 7:30
  • 1
    @hope_clearwater keys those days were long and thick... XD
    – SJuan76
    Jan 29 '16 at 8:33
  • 4
    I suppose I should be grateful for your honesty in admitting you made it up on the spot... :-(
    – T.E.D.
    Jan 29 '16 at 17:26

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