No one seems to know for sure where the term “badger game” originated. Perhaps it was so-named because it had its origins in Wisconsin, the Badger State, or perhaps it was named after a rather cruel sport called “badger baiting”. Badger baiting appears to have originated in England during the nineteenth century. Without going into the sordid details, this blood sport pitted a badger, normally a docile creature, against a dog (some dogs were bred as “badger dogs”).
Stories began appearing in American newspapers in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Even into the early twentieth century the so-called “badger game” was still popular and most profitable, hardy despite its age, according to Duluth News-Tribune (01 Oct 1922). The con game had ousted card sharping as the number one “indoor sport” on trans-Atlantic ocean liners. The game was played best, however, when a couple worked together.
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