Backgammon or Parcheesi?

                   A Game of Backgammon or Parcheesi?

By Inga Milbauer

Take a close look at this box with Parcheesi game pieces!  It has 4 black paper-covered dice cups with 2 dice, as well as 16 brass bound colored counters. This set was made in 1895 by Selchow & Righter, Bay Shore (Long Island), New York. Selchow had purchased the rights in 1870 and trademarked Parcheesi in 1874. The company was founded as E.G. Selchow & Co. in 1867. In 1880 it became Selchow & Righter to reflect the partnership with John Righter. Until the 1950s, when the company bought the rights to Scrabble, Parcheesi was their hottest selling game. Parcheesi was America’s best-selling game until the release of Monopoly in 1935 by Parker Brothers.

Parcheesi is a brand-name American adaptation of the “cross and circle” game Pachisi, which originated in medieval India. The cross and circle board game design is used for race games played throughout the world. Parcheesi is played by 2-4 players, the first player to move all the tokens around the board to the home position wins. Since many families owned their own Parcheesi game boards, one did not come with this set. The game board shown on the right is the standard board for this set.

The game board in the picture below is actually a backgammon board. The backgammon board was donated together with the Parcheesi set, the checkers pieces, dice and dice cups. It is a faux book style game board, the game pieces fit inside and it looks like a 2-volume leather bound book with the title “Macauley’s History of England” when closed.

Backgammon is one of the oldest recorded board games. Its history can be traced back nearly 5000 years to archeological discoveries in Mesopotamia. Similar games existed in Egypt (called Senet, with historical evidence dating back to 2620 AD) and Asia (called Nard, dating back to 800 AD). There is evidence dating back to 600 AD that the Romans played a game called Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum (“Twelve-lined Game”), which was very similar to modern backgammon. It was referred to as Tabula in the 1st century, the generic name for the board on which it was played.

Backgammon is part of the “tables” games – games with 12 vertical markings. Players roll dice to determine the movement of the pieces. In 1743, Edmond Hoyle codified the rules of play with the “Treatise on the game of Back-Gammon,” the first official set of modern rules in existence.

Parcheesi and Backgammon remain popular and are now available to be played online in addition to the traditional board game formats by the novice and expert alike. 



Acknowledgements: Edited by Nancy Filgate, BHSM curator; Photography by Oliver Milbauer,;,,