We all are part of history



Approximately when was this picture taken?

What are the men doing?

Where is the activity taking place?

Several years ago Cindy was awarded a Teaching American History grant.  I sometimes get to tag along on her projects. One of the things I remember as an emphasis was providing students the opportunity to practice the historian’s craft. This is a careful process of examining and speculating about primary source documents. Trying to understand what was happening and why. There is considerable more to the process and in some ways some of concepts mirror skills that are applied when psychologists talk about observation. For example, differentiating description from interpretation. Anyway, one of the ways these concepts were presented to students was through the use of images. The link I provide describes educators in a work shop the grant sponsored going through this process with representatives from the Library of Congress via a video connection.

I have been scanning some slides and putting them on Flickr for viewing and sharing with my relatives. As I looked at some of these slides it occurred to me that they are perfect examples of the types of primary source material that offers a great opportunity to practice the historian’s craft. I am giving you a chance to see how well you can do. I have now added about enough words to this post to separate the image I have provided from my explanation of the scene it captures. If you are interested in this image, I decided to share the full size version as Creative Commons in case anyone wants to use it as a primary source document.

I am estimating this picture was taken in 1952-53. I know what was going on, but I probably did not witness this event. Some of my comments are speculative.

The men are playing a game called “dart ball”. You can see the target in the background. The teams are sitting facing each other. One of the men facing the camera is next up and he has darts in his hand. In the full size image, you can see the line on the floor behind which each player stood as they threw (underhand) darts at the target. Areas of the target represented outs, strikes,balls, and hits of different type. The target for a single is larger than the area for a triple. The area for hits is surrounded by areas of outs, strikes, etc. Each player threw until reaching base or being declared out. If I remember correctly, different teams would use different strategies. My dad’s team (the group of men you can see entirely) used to throw alternatively for singles and triples (I am thinking because it was easier to throw at targets ont the same level). I also think you could not throw at a base that was already occupied (not sure about this). Maybe alternating triple and single would be the most efficient way to force in runs. Beats me.

The scene is a rural Lutheran church basement. Teams from different Lutheran churches would car pool over to another church for an evening match and supper (they did not call it dinner). I even remember there being tournaments with trophies and the whole bit. Note the blackboard used for score keeping.

I never saw a woman throw a dart. I don’t think the Lutherans played other demoninations (again this may not be accurate).

My dad is the last man sitting on the left side (hard to see for certain). I remember him as being very good at this game, but he seems to be batting 9th. 🙂

Wikipedia has an article on dartball and it appears that it is still an active “sport”. Now, I am impressed. Would an encyclopedia have an entry on the game of dartball?

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