“Who did it? The Maine Question”

Returning the occasional game to the AAS graphic arts department does not usually result in discovering the explosives that blew up the USS Maine in 1898.
Well, it never does, actually.  But when Jennifer Burek Pierce, Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa’s School of Library and Information Science and recent Jay and Deborah Last Fellow at AAS, had finished looking at the games collection, I wheeled them back to graphic arts.  Peeking into one of the boxes, I saw a game titled, “Who did it? The Maine Question,” a game containing an envelope, a fuse, an tiny bits of explosive powder adhered to several sheets of paper with an image of the Maine printed on them.

Not knowing if Jennifer had even looked at the game, I started to wonder why AAS had a children’s game dating to 1898, produced at the height of controversy over U.S. involvement in the Cuban insurrection.   The game encouraged children to actively hypothesize who blew up the Maine, a question that pervaded news reports in February of 1898—and blow up printed reproductions of the Maine in the process. Regardless, the game was probably pure fun to play.

Instead of playing the game (and, in the process, blowing it up), Jennifer, Lauren, and I decided to have a bit of fun gathering different views of “The Maine Question” for Past is Present. Later in the week, we will post Jennifer’s thoughts on patriotism and images in children’s games and books and then Lauren’s ideas about inexpensive paper and the manufacture of the game.

In the meantime, please enjoy the photographic ‘reenactment’ below courtesy of Jon Benoit, AAS’s imaging coordinator.

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