Collectors’ Day 2020

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The Art of the Game: Cards, Horse Racing, and Tavern Life in the Early Chesapeake

The fourth annual Collectors’ Day will be a virtual lecture series with an optional onsite reception. Lectures (via Zoom, to be accessed at attendees’ homes) will feature the taverns, game rooms, race tracks, and forested hunting grounds of America’s sporting past. Beginning in the 18th century, the Chesapeake region developed a sporting culture similar to England’s—with card games and horse racing as the central activities. Fortunes were gained and lost during card games. While the more cultivated played whist or loo for fun and challenge, gambling was also a widespread pastime; games like brag, a precursor to poker, were played in the taverns. Each Annapolis tavern served a different clientele. Those in the middle and lower classes patronized rowdy sporting taverns like the one owned by James West—where violence was commonplace. A 1780 card game at West’s tavern led Thomas Pryse to call William Vereker a “damned rascal,” and fisticuffs ensued. More elegant taverns like George Namm’s attracted elite clientele and even hosted George Washington. Annapolitans also played card games in the comfort of their homes. Following dinner parties, both men and women might adjourn to the family game room for rounds of play; inventories of Annapolis homeowners often listed a game table. The Maryland Jockey Club, the America’s oldest sporting association, founded in Annapolis in 1743, is credited with introducing thoroughbred racing in the colonies. The club attracted patrons like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and the races held on the track in Annapolis drew crowds from around the colonies. Many of the horses and their trainers came from England. Enslaved men acting as groomsmen and jockeys also played an important role in the development of horse racing.


To access the lectures, please email us at A link will be sent to your email. Cost: $35 (Per household via Zoom)

Lecture Speakers:

Rod Cofield, Director, Historic London Town and Gardens, will discuss colonial taverns in Chesapeake. Virtual

Kenneth Cohen, Associate Professor of History, Director of the Museum Studies Program, University of Delaware and Secretarial Scholar and Curator, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, will speak on sporting culture and the making of the early American republic. Virtual

Joyce White, food historian, will speak on the history of 18th and 19th century card parties called routs and the food and drink, particularly rout cakes, associated with them. Virtual

Rachel Lovett, Curator/Assistant Director, HammondHarwood House Museum, will explore the gaming material culture in the collection. Held at Hammond-Harwood House.

  • Glenn Harwood Memorial Scholarship Opportunity In memory of Glenn Harwood, thanks to the generosity of his wife Frances Newton Harwood, the Hammond-Harwood House offered a limited number of scholarships to undergraduate students, graduate students, and young career professionals in the fields of architectural history, preservation, art history, decorative arts, material culture, history, and related subjects. The scholarship covers all events connected with Collectors’ Day and a travel stipend to come to Annapolis.

Interested scholars should include a resume and one paragraph statement on how the event will benefit them. Contact Curator and Assistant Director Rachel Lovett for more information at rachel@


Safety is the number one priority of the Hammond-Harwood House Museum, and the organization follows all of the local and federal recommendations regarding COVID-19 regulations.



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Posted on Nov 19, 2020 in , , , by Hammond-Harwood House



Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve, for public education and enjoyment, the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts.
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