The Oldest Sports and Games Manufacturer in the WorldJaques is the oldest games company and sports manufacturer in the world. Passed down from father to son for six generations, Jaques have been responsible for inventing many well known games, such as Croquet, Ping Pong, Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Tiddledy Winks, The Staunton Chess Set, Happy Families, Snap and many more.
Jaques Family History
Thomas Jaques was a farmer’s son of French Huguenot descent. His recent forebears must have found refuge in England sometime after 1685 when the Edict of Nantes forbade Protestantism in France. Thomas was born in 1765 by which time George III had been on the throne for five years and was already fighting a losing battle to retain the American colonies. At home, the Georgian Period was in full flower.
Thomas’s instinct and good sense obviously extended into his private life: at twenty-one, Thomas married Mr Ivy’s niece! Thomas continued to work for Mr Ivy. Nine years later, his employer, mentor (and uncle by marriage), died. Thomas, now thirty, was so well-versed in his craft that he could take on the business and establish himself as “Thomas Jaques, (Manufacturer of Ivory, Hardwoods, Bone, and Tunbridge Ware)”. Thus, it is from this date, 1795, that John Jaques marks its official beginning.
Origins in Craftsmanship
At fifteen, John was apprenticed to his father and five years later partnered him in the firm, which became “T. and J. Jaques, Wholesale Ivory Turners It was, by this time, too narrow a description, as their materials now, included hardwoods. Lignum Vitae was the unique wood which was to become Jaques croquet mallets. Turkey boxwood was destined for mallets and balls. In fact, before long Jaques would become timber-based, as they are now, 200 years on.
Teaching the World to Play
Their business card of 1816 shows an enterprising, expanding range of products and materials. Consider the item, “Dentists supplied with Sea Horse Teeth” — false teeth made from hippopotamus ivory! As the father and son partnership prospered, so the family grew. John married, and in time fathered a son: John Jaques II. He, too, was apprenticed as a young man to the family firm, which by now had expanded into additional premises in Hatton Garden. (Leather Lane was retained.) Tallis’s London Street Views, a series of steel engravings issued in 1838, shows their new headquarters at Number 102 Hatton Garden.