Treasured Find: 1843 Mansion of Happiness Board Game

W&S B Ives mansion of happiness I love board games, and love hunting down old games to add to my collection. It is always a treasure hunt for me. I think anyone who has a collection can relate to this type of Thrill of the Chase.  For many years I was on the lookout for the game called The Mansion of Happiness.  Not the ones produced by Parker Brothers in the late 1800’s, but the boards first produced by W. & S.B. Ives in 1843.

Before being ousted by Lockwood’s 1822 game of Traveller’s Tour, the Ives’ Mansion of Happiness game was considered the first board game officially produced in the United States.  You can imagine my excitement when I was finally able to place one of these Ives’ boards within my collection after years of waiting for the right find.  It was given a special spot.

The game of Mansion of Happiness was initially released in England in 1800.  George Fox (of England) invented and designed the game in honor of the Duchess of York.  These original boards consisted of ‘gold printing’ and were quite expensive to make. They were enjoyed and played by families of nobility or of considerable wealth.  Not until later did board games become readily available for persons of less stature.

Board games were not initially or invented to be played for mere fun either.  They were made to include, and teach, important values of life.  The Mansion of Happiness advertised itself as just that; as can be recognized  by the game’s subtitle and description; ‘An Instructive Moral and Entertaining Amusement.’

Players would roll a teetotum (since dice during this period were considered evil), and move their pieces around the 67 spaced spiral board accordingly.  A person’s goal was to be the first player to reach The Mansion of Happiness at the center of the board.

Many spaces of the board consisted of vices and virtues for a player to take heed.  Landing on a vice would send a person backwards; further away from ‘Happiness’.  Landing on a virtue would move a player closer to the center space of Happiness; believed to represent ‘Heaven’.

Playing the game supported thoughts for how a person should live in order to obtain happiness. A small verse at the beginning of the instructions of play make this clear:

At this amusement each will find,
A moral fit t’ improve the mind:
It gives to those their proper due
Who various paths of vice pursue
And shows (while vice destruction brings)
That good from every virtue springs
Be virtuous then and forward press,
To gain the seat of Happiness.

The instructions include the various consequences that both vice and virtue spaces yield.  For example, if a player were to land on the vice of Idleness, he must move back to the space marked Poverty.  The vice of Road to Folly takes a player back to the space of Prudence.

Landing on virtuous spaces of Piety, Honesty, Prudence, Temperance, Gratitude, Industry, Truth, Charity, Sincerity, Chasity, Humility, Humanity, or Generosity allows a player to move ahead six spaces.

Others spaces and rules offer additional aspects to be taken into consideration for life while playing.

It’s a wonderful old board game to learn the beliefs, values, and history of the times. Games often display a unique perspective to the past, and this is one of the reasons why I treasure them so.

Enjoy a game today!


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5 Responses

  1. Danny-boy says:

    Hi Jenny,

    Do you display your collection?

    I.e. do you have a special place / room in your home with all these games in glass cases?

    You sound a bit too passionate about them to just tuck them all away in your office.


  2. Jenny/sixer says:

    Do you collect anything, Danny-boy? I’m always amazed at the unique items people have chosen to collect. I find it so interesting. Even if it is just two or three things. They are so special.

    And I do display my game collection…..all over my house…lol…. Actually, the antique games I keep in a large glass cabinet which displays their boards, cards, and pieces.

    But then others I display around the subjects they relate to. For example, on numerous bookshelves throughout the house I display games which relate to books. Lots of games were inspired by books- so I display them together. My office holds a few treasures, and then the finished basement holds a wall full of more recent games. and so on to every room….

    Yes, it is a passion of mine. And collecting games is something anyone can pick a subject and do. If you like classic tv shows, collect games on them or if you like mystery, collect those type of games. There are thousands of games.

    Like said, what I love most is a game collection, spanning over decades, will reveal so much about the history of that same time span.

    Almost every major event is represented in games. One way to study any time period is to look at the games played. It’s a totally neglected subject.

    If you like games, I share more on

  3. Hello,

    I am an expert on 19th century games from Salem, Mass. and working on a four volume set on the 19th century games of Salem. At this point, covering only the first half of the W. & S. B. Ives games, I have over 120 pages with references and illustrations for the first volume. The different editions of W. & S. B. Ives Mansion of Happiness covers about 20 pages. I own an original or in a few cases, a hand made reproduction of most of the 28 Ives games (including all known editions). I am working with the American Antiquarian Society and hope to have the first volume done in about a year.

    Just to let you know, I have an F. & R. Lockwood “Vernacular Cards” with a copyright date 1821. It may be the first American product to have the word “GAME” listed in the product.

    I would be happy to help date your game as the 1843 copyright Ives Mansion of Happiness was produced from 1843 to 1863 in various editions. The game you have pictured is not the first edition, but if it has the lithographer, Bufford, printed on the bottom, it may be one of the rarest!

    Joe Angiolillo, past president, American Game Collectors Association

    • Jenny Kile says:

      Hi Joe……wow, sounds like you have an amazing collection! One I could totally get lost in.

      Years ago, The Reward of Virture by Ives was for a bid sale, and I have regretted letting it go ever since then. I haven’t seen another for sale to date! It is another ‘hunt’ for me. Do you have it? Just to see the game one more time…lol….

      OH! And the Vernacular Cards! I am so envious! True Treasures!

      Please let us know when the book is finished. I certainly would be interested in reading it!

      (I’ll be sending you a private email as I would love to discuss with you more about the games. I’m doing research on them too…and you are just the person I need to talk to! Thanks so much)

  4. Maria Rigel says:

    This seems to me like an imitation of the Game of the Goose, but without any clear esoteric meanings that I can notice.

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