The Fun Game about Wall Street

What a little puzzle can teach us about the great emigration movement of the mid-19th century is revealed in our “What’s That For?” series.

You need a little bit of skill for this game: using a small magnet, you manoeuvre a small fly-shaped metal figure across a board into a half-open metal ring, from which you then attempt to move it out again. The ring is located at the centre of a spider’s web, which is drawn onto the board, and surrounds the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. The small game is called “In and Out or The Jolly Game of Wall Street”. It was sold in around 1850 in New York for ten cents – even then, Wall Street was considered the “Money Capital of America”.

This particular little game was acquired by a German emigrant, who sent it back to his family. It was ideally suited for an overseas consignment, which typically took several weeks or even months. The game remained in private ownership until it was donated to the Deutsches Historisches Museum in the late 1990s. Today, it is displayed in the permanent exhibition. Visitors can have a go themselves at playing the game on the enlarged reproduction.

In the mid-19th century, political and/or economic factors drove large numbers of Germans to seek their fortune in the United States. The failure of the bourgeois-democratic “March Revolution” of 1848/ 1849, and the reactionary repressive measures that came in its wake, drove many free-minded citizens to emigrate. Furthermore, during this period many regions of Germany were mired in desperate poverty. For such people, a better life could only be found far away – with the result that in the period between 1850 and 1870 approximately 2 million people left the territory of the German Confederation.