Guided Primary Source Analysis: Office Boy Board Game

The Office Boy game board
Parker Brothers. “The Office Boy game board.” 1889. Library of Congress Rare Book & Special Collection Division.

The curator notes for this source read: Parker Brothers produced the 1889 board game Office Boy during the heyday of Horatio Alger’s popular stories of plucky lads reaching success through hard work and determination. The player can advance from stock boy to sweeping out and on to head of sales, trying to avoid carelessness, which will send him back to reprimand. The lucky winner becomes head of the firm.

Write a definition of the word “plucky” using the context of the sentence and clues from the source itself. Then compare the definition you wrote with a dictionary definition. Next, write a sentence that describes how you are plucky.

Zoom into this more detailed image of the game board. In a t-chart, list the nouns used to indicate why a worker gets promoted and the nouns used to indicate why a worker gets demoted. What nouns would you change or add to each list? Explain your choices.

List each job title noted on the game board from office boy to head of the firm. Do you think a similar career path was possible in 1889? Why or why not? Do you think a similar career path is possible today? Why or why not? Talk with a few adults who work in an office setting. What are their thoughts on the possibility of following a similar career path today?

What other observations, reflections or questions does this source inspire? Let us know!