Alternative Name(s): Jacks, Knucklebone Jacks

Five plastic replica knucklebones in original box. Bought in Melbourne in 1954, probably by American children's folklore researcher Dorothy Howard.

Knucklebones, or Jacks, is an ancient game, dating back to prehistoric times. The first jacks were natural materials - animal bones, stones, seeds and shells. Sheep's knucklebones were the most common type of jacks in Australia during the first half of this century, and children would colour them by boiling them in water with ink or dye. During the 1950s, mass-produced plastic knucklebones became available. These objects are examples of the very earliest type of mass-produced plastic replica knucklebones used by Australian children to play the game of Jacks. The size, shape and weight of real sheeps' knucklebones were replicated, in contrast to later versions which are much smaller and lighter.

This set is part of the Dorothy Howard Collection, gathered by eminent US folklorist and scholar Dr Dorothy Howard, who visited Australia as a Fulbright fellow in 1954-55 to document and research the folklore of Australian children. The Collection primarily contains documents, photographs and objects from Australia and the United States. It is now contained with the Australian Children's Folklore Collection (ACFC), unique in Australia, documenting contemporary children's folklore across Australia and in other countries reaching back to the 1870s. The Collection has a strong component of research material relating to Victoria.

Physical Description

Five plastic knucklebones in original box. The knucklebones are made from moulded plastic, and are the size, shape and approximate weight of real knucklebones. Each knucklebone is a different colour - dark green, orange, light brown, maroon, white. The box is black cardboard, with yellow, red and grey printing on every surface. It is torn in several places. There is a round green sticker on the front of the box, on the back is a round, white sticker with serrated edges, and a large square of packaging tape.

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