Thursday, August 27, 2020

US Playing Card Company

 While I am primarily an aesthetic joker collector (focused on the images), I am growing interested in their history too. This article is part of a series where I review my historical jokers. 

NYCC jokers
USPC Jokers including Bicycle, Congress  

National Card Company and Perfection too 
Kalamazoo and Russell 
- this article
Arcco and Arrow
The History of the Joker, the Ace of Spades, and the Stamp Act
- Questions about the symbols on face cards

My old decks (historic enough to keep the joker with them)  BTW: I’m new at this historical thing. Corrections, comments, or info gratefully accepted in the comments.

Onto my cards from the US Playing Card Company (USPCC) sectionFor those who don't know, the USPCC has been the most successful and voracious of the US card publishers. The roots of the company go back to 1881 when it was founded (and named) by Misters Russell and Morgan.  There were four brands were Tiger (101), Sportsman (202), Army and Navy (303 and 505),  and Congress (404 and 606). (Actually, there was a fifth that go folded into Army & Navy). Tiger was the cheapest brand (competing with Steamboat cards from other companies) and Congress was the fanciest.

 In 1891, the company changed its name to the US Playing Card Company. (Source: Wikipedia Article on USPCC  Jan 18, 2018).and it acquired many (perhaps most?) of the US Card publishers including Doherty and the New York Consolidated Company. Some were acquired bu trun independently for periods of tim.

 The Belgian privately-owned group Cartamundi acquired The United States Playing Card Company (USPC) in 2019.  The combined heritage of Cartamundi, USPCC, and Fournier: It's the 50th anniversary for Cartamundi,  the 150th anniversary for Fournier, and 134th of the USPCC Bicycle brand. 
Here's an array of my older USPC Congress jokers.  I also now have an article about my antique Congress decks of cards.

This Moon Fairy joker was one of the Congress Matching jokers. This style was introduced after the Dundreary joker was dropped (it was the original joker from 1881 to 1889.  Then Congress used matching jokers (they matched the back image) until around 1904 when the Capital was adopted as the art work for the jokers.  The Moon Fairy is in the crescent moon section.
Here's the Moon Fairy back.

Here is my Dundreary joker and wouldn't it great if it were the extremely rare bordered style with flesh tones? I can only hope but since mine is pretty much black and white, it seems unlikely despite the intertwined US in the corners and the border around Dundreary. I'm looking at it maybe being the US6 Congress #404 or #606 1881 from Hochman P86.

USPCC first made the army cards  in 1881, US3 Army #303.  My pair of these jokers might be from the reproduction was made a century later.

I thought for awhile this was my oldest joker dating from 1896 but I learned that:  "The 1896 version had a star inside of a circle in the corners.  Yours has the interlocked US (the S is superimposed on the U). Also, the 1896 Joker has "The National Card Company" where yours says "Five Hundred".  That substitution was made in 1910. Also, the #13 was added in 1925. I would date your deck to 1927.  Also, looking at your Ace of Spades, it says Russell & Morgan which also points to 1927." (thanks to Brad Starnes). NU13a Hochman 113.

US7b Streamboat #999 c1895 on Hochman P88. Mine has a tiny D48 marked below the picture, Hochman's has a C26 to right of the ship.
These “Stage Playing Cards” are souvenirs from a bygone age but today they have historic and nostalgia value. The court cards and Aces each feature four portraits of famous theatre stars from the 1890s inside round frames, against a background pattern based on traditional court cards. The Joker is Marshall P. Wilder (1859-1915) the famous actor who was one of the first persons with a disability to become a celebrity on his own terms. (WOPC)

This Waterfall joker has the jumbo index on it. They were first introduced by USPC in 1895. Could this joker be from the first jumbo indices? It's on P102 as US34 Jumbo Index #88 

Let's summarize the USPC jokers from this era that I have:

Design joker 84 - missing
Army joker 84
Dundreary 86
Congress 87
Moon Fairy 87
Congress 88
Steamboat 88
Bicycle 89
Bicycles 90
Waterfall 93
Texan 94 - missing
Waterfall 102
Design 105 missing
Design shield 107 missing

Much sorting and research to do: any and all help and advice appreciated.

I'm doing most of my research using three sources: 
-    The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards by Tom and Judy Dawson. C 2000.
-    Paper Empires Vol I by Jason McKinstry. C 2019
-    The World of Playing Cards website. 
I'd like to express my deepest thanks to those who create such quality works. You are, in my book, superheroes and celebrities. If I ever get to meet you, I'll ask for a selfie and be proud to have taken it.

To see my other articles about historical jokers. 

NYCC jokers
USPC Jokers including Bicycle, Congress  
National Card Company,
Kalamazoo, and Perfection too

And others coming soon.    

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Thanks for your input and for reading and thinking about jokers.