Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Dundreary Jokers

 Alas, despite my interest in the early Congress jokers, I do not have an original Congress deck with a Dundreary joker.  I do have a used Dundreary joker with some charming markings on it. Which I treasure.

So why does anyone care about these old decks and jokers. Here's the story.

In the late 1800s, America was getting sort of rich, people were travelling on steamboats and trains, and there was lots of time and interest in playing cards. Most regular poorish people might buy steamboat decks for around $0.02 (two cents).  Middle class people would more likely spend five or ten cents and buy nicer decks such as Army Navy, Tiger, Bicycle, and Sportsmen.  But the rich, the people with mansions in NYC and Boston, the people who summered in Newport and who belonged to all the right clubs, the people who might be named Astor, Rockefeller, Flagler, Morgan, or Vanderbilt, well, they bought the upscale brands for about $0.50 per deck. These decks had gold edges and came in  leather boxes with  lovely artwork on the back.  Chief among these upscale brands were Congress 606 and for the first two decades of it's life, this brand featured Lord Dundreary on the joker.

Lord Dundreary was the joker for Congress decks from 1881 until the late 1890s. Dundreary was a popular character from “Our American Cousin” played on Broadway by Edward Askew Sothern. Lord Dundreary who first appeared in 1858, was a good-natured brainless pretentious British aristocratic character who apparently was widely popular and talked about. To this day, a simple google search produces all sorts of written material and ephemera about this character and the actor how played him.

For more info on Congress 606 cards, I have written an article about Congress 606 Matching jokers (which replaced the Dundreary joker from 1898 to 1906)  and about the overall history of Congress jokers.

I recently bought a modern homage deck created by Jackson Robinson and Kings Wild. It was apparently designed in a 24 hour competition in 2020. It is a limited edition and is for sale by Kings Wild

There's a joker with the insightful, indisputable, and profound Dundrearism: "No Matter where you go in life, there you are."  Actually, that sounds familiar. Maybe I've said it or at least thought it. My wording, which I offer to people who seem embarrassed by their situation is: "Well, you are where you are." Or, "it is what it is."

Be that as it may, here's the notable cards in the Lord Dundreary Monocle Deck.
There's the eye card which I can't decide if it counts as a joker or not. Why didn't they put the word joker on it and save me the agony of deciding?

Oct 2023 - Auction action update. There was a nice old deck, late 1800, in the 52 Plus Joker auction. Good condition. I decided to bid on it since I really wanted a real Dundreary deck and joker. I decided to bid up to $500.  The bidding ended up being me and the Congress Guy. I dropped out at $475. So I'm still looking.

Read about:

My 19 ~1900  Congress decks of cards
My Congress Jokers
Famous Historic Americans

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