The McMinn County Living Heritage Museum has an artifact that is probably the first home theater of its kind.
It is called “The Myriopticon” — a historic panorama rebellion using scenes from the American Civil War.
It was introduced by the Milton Bradley Company of Springfield, Mass., just in time for Christmas of 1866 and became popular among boys ages seven to 12.
The game displays 22 sketched scenes that were hand-colored. Experts believe the sketches are very similar to ones that artists created when they followed soldiers during the Civil War and set up to sketch the war activity and scenes along the Civil War trail. “Harper’s Weekly” was a popular magazine that people purchased to keep up on the war.
One of the pictorials in this panorama is of a sharpshooter who experts note appears to be the same pictorial that was published in “Harper’s Weekly.”
The panorama is made up of a long paper scroll of sketches that wrap around wood dowels along the sides and unwind across a stage with guidance.
The stage is a one-foot square cardboard box decorated with artist-drawn décor of colorful fancy stage curtains, patriotic bunting, a king and queen, a harpist and a tambourine player along the sidelines.
It is made to be a parlor game containing images on the scroll from drawings of the American Civil War or the history of the “Rebellion.”
The game came with everything needed to put on a theatre production: directions, a skit, a poster and tickets.
Children would set up the parlor, hand out tickets, and produce the show for friends and family.
To produce your show with theatre effects, you would darken the room and light a candle behind the theatre for a soft glow that would highlight each scene as it was pulled across the stage.
As the panorama of overlapping scenes appear before the audience, someone reads from their script a sometimes-witty twist of information about the picture to entertain an account of what is going on — whether it be factual or comical or to create suspense as the “movie” so to speak unfold — the audience experiences a reenactment of “the rebellion.”
Here is an example of the script that goes with the appearance of the sharpshooter: “This interesting young man is a sharpshooter that has ensconced himself in a tree and fires whenever he sees the head of an enemy.
“He is probably a relative of one of our celebrated poets, as he is evidently a very long fellow.”
The scenes give an account of the war with an added fictional presentation geared toward young children.
It brings the historic affects of the war into the home parlor making it a fun presentation along with learning about the war.
It starts at the beginning of the war with the first scene of soldiers at Fort Sumter preparing to fight against the Confederates and progresses through campfire scenes, battles, and prisoners transported under guard.
Some of the scenes are comical, such as the soldiers attempting to corral some rather feisty hogs to the very serious sharpshooter, the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the catastrophic burning and evacuation of Richmond on April 2, 1865.
The game was invented by Milton Bradley — a 30-year-old draftsman and designer who had established a color lithography company in Massachusetts.
He later founded the Milton Bradley Company, producing many different games that are still popular in the home today.
The first game he created and marketed in 1860 was called “The Checkered Game of Life.” Players moved around a game board while they experienced different life events to reach a “happy old age.”
It was when he noticed soldiers dealing with boredom while stationed in Springfield, Mass., that he created easy to carry games like chess and checkers. He would sell these games to soldiers for $1 apiece.
Milton Bradley invented many games and became known as a game pioneer. He died in 1911 at the age of 74. The Milton Bradley Company was purchased by Hasbro Company in 1984. Bradley was posthumously inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2004 and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.