January 21, 2012

Riddles for Colonial Children

From the "Seven Bridges of K√∂nigsberg" problem to modern day Sudoku, problems, riddles, conundrums, and puzzles have been entertaining people for centuries. 

In 1778, the successors of John Newbery's bookshop offered the public "Food for the Mind: or, A New Riddle Book," assuring its readers that this book would be up to the standards of John Newbery's publications. John Newbery had been the leading publisher of children's books. Books specifically for children were relatively rare at the time.

The riddles in this book are intended to be read by one person to another person or group as the images give away the answer. Imagine, children playing with their siblings. :D The riddles aren't amazingly clever and some lines are added just to fit the rhyme schemes. 

If the author thought the picture was unclear, the answer was written as in this example, "eyelids." 


Unfortunately, the author didn't identify this one with words. This one is a complete puzzle to me. Maybe it will be really obvious to someone else. I have a couple of theories of what it might be, but don't want to tarnish fresh eyes. 

These riddles seem like they would be fun  for colonial children to read to each other in the schoolyard. I remember having my friends and I playing puzzle games at recess in elementary school. This is one of those times when you realize that human nature changes very little from generation to generation even if the situations seem completely different.


  1. Is the mystery riddle a housewife? "Stabbed" could refer to the pin-cushion part of it, and many women did wear their housewifes at their waists.

    1. It could be! I thought it was some sort of kerchief but had never seen one with a ribbon like that.


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