It’s said that Jacks have origins in ancient counting games, but they started to captivate Western kids around the turn of the twentieth century.
The balls weren’t rubber back then, but the object was still the same: pour the spiky jacks (usually ten, twelve or fourteen of them) out onto the ground, toss the ball in the air, then pick up as many jacks as you can before the ball touches back down on terra firma.
It wasn’t as easy as it sounds – especially since all of this is done with one hand. And that was just round one!
After everyone had a turn picking up the jacks one at a time, the next step was to pick them up two at a time, then three at a time, and so on.
If a player skipped a number or touched a jack that they didn’t pick up, their turn was over.