Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Playing Cards from the 1880's

I have already covered the history of Playing Cards in my March 2007 post so today I would like to detail what a deck of cards from 1882 would look and feel like.

Why 1882 ? Well, because by focusing in on that particular year you will learn about the cards Luke Short, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday(just to mention a few very famous gamblers from that time period) would have held in their hands and dealt out daily when gambling. Besides, I happen to be lucky enough to own a very nice deck of cards that were manufactured that year.

By 1882 American ingenuity had already taken a pasteboard card (the type used in Faro) and evolved it to the point that cards were now double-headed so a player wouldn't have to turn a card around, added indices (numbers) in the corners again for the convenience of the player, rounded the corners making the cards easier to hold and deal and by adding a finish to the card so it lasted longer and also made it easier to shuffle and deal.

Additionally, around 1870 a Joker card was added to each deck and was inscribed, " Best Bower". By the 1880's the Joker had come to depict a Jocular Imp, Jester or Clown.

A very high quality deck of cards would not only be made out of the highest quality material but also be trimmed in gold leaf.

Let me also mention that by the 1880's there where a laundry list of well recognized card manufactures producing what were known as " Advantaged Cards", cards used to cheat with. These cards were"trimmed" or "marked" so a skilled player/dealer could read each and every card he dealt.

If you have ever handled a deck of Faro cards you know they are very hard to shuffle and deal because of the material they were made of and because they lacked a finished surface. Another problem with Pasteboards was they tended to easily bend and they collected moisture and would swell up. Because of this, Pasteboards would need to be placed in a Card Press when not in use. The more "modern cards" were manufactured with a varnished surface thus eliminating this problem.

The cards pictured above are identified in Hochman's Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards on page 109. They were manufactured by The National Card Co., Indianapolis, Indiana in 1882. Note the Sunflower Watermelon card with the Black Boy Faces. This is the Joker card for this deck. They weren't at all concerned back then about political correctness, were they?

Stop by Old West Antiques and look over the selection of playing cards available and remember items are added on a regular basis so stop back often.

p.s. keep in mind that Old West Antiques would love to talk to you about listing your items.

p.s.s. we can also provide a seasoned group of old west reenactors for your upcoming events


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