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Bulls and Cows is a game that predates Mastermind but is closely related. The wikipedia has for first dates of Mastermind as 1970.

What is the earliest reference to the game Bulls and Cows?

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    $\begingroup$ You could mark the Wikipedia page as [citation needed] and let that community work on it as well. $\endgroup$ – Engineer Toast Jun 30 '16 at 12:32
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    $\begingroup$ Are such questions allowed? Questions tagged puzzle-history are about the history of puzzles. I have never seen a question asking about the history of a game... $\endgroup$ – dryairship Jun 30 '16 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Hackerdarshi exactly flag it. $\endgroup$ – Adit Kirtani Jun 30 '16 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ I believe this is a perfectly legit question, about puzzling. $\endgroup$ – Micha Sprengers Jun 30 '16 at 13:54
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According to codebreaker-mastermind-superhirn.blogspot.co.uk

The exact year when the number guessing game Bulls and Cows was invented is not known. "Bulls and Cows has been played as a paper-and-pencil game for a century or more. I first played a computer version in 1968 on Titan, the Cambridge University Atlas" (John Francis, 2010 [dead link to "Bulls and cows.pdf"]).

A similar word guessing game "Jotto was invented in 1955 by Morton M. Rosenfeld and marketed by his New York-based Jotto Corp." (wikipedia.org)

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