Perhaps collecting objects to commorate public events which one sees as important, has been a human activity since people first walked the earth. Card makers as early as the 16th century AD discovered that people were interested in purchasing special playing card decks as mementos of current fashions, personalities, and events. Later, manufacturers extended this concept and began to issue decks to commemorate special public events. This Webpage offers examples of this type of deck from the collection.
To commemorate the United States Bicentennial, an elaborate and oversized deck of playing cards (box on the right) was offered to the public by US Games Systems, Inc. in 1976. A copy was purchased for the collection in that year. The box included not only a deck of 56 cards, but a 160 page book which described each historical person depicted on the cards.
The box is approximately 17.1cm long x 21.cm wide x 2.7cm thick. The underside (not pictured) has a description of the contents. The inside includes a red plastic and felt platform, divided into 2 compartments - one to hold the deck, the other to hold the book. The book (11.7cm long x 8cm wide) is printed in black on white paper, and includes a black and white copy of the colored pictures which appear on the cards. A textual narrative in the English language accompanies each picture, explaining the contribution of that person to the two-hundred year history of the United States.
Each card back (as well as the book cover) includes a colored picture of the American eagle symbol, clouds, a covered wagon, USA, etc. The back of the cards is pictured in the lower right of the photograph. There are also two jokers with portraits of "Uncle Sam" (pictured upper right). Standard international suit symbols are used on each card. Each suit represents a domestic period in US history- and this is noted on the left side of each card:
Spades - Colonial
Hearts - Frontier
Diamonds - Civil War
Clubs - Federalist
In the center of each card is a reproduction of a historical personage from the designated period. For example, the King of Diamonds is Abraham Lincoln, the Queen of Hearts is Clamity Jane, and the Jack of Spades is Tom Paine. Each person's name is printed below their portrait. The cards are larger than a standard deck of playing cards; they are 12.1cm long x 8.3cm wide.
The deck pictured on the left commemorates the US presidential campaign of 1888 in which Grover Cleveland was elected president.
The deck was acquired in 1982. Manufactured by US Games Systems, Inc., the box (on the left) is 9.2cm long x 6.7cm wide x 1.7cm thick. The side of the box showing in the picture illustrates one of the cards. The lower picture illustrates the backs of the cards. A brief history of Cleveland's campaign is printed on the other side of the box.
As can be seen in the photograph on the right, the deck uses the international suit symbols, but each king is a portrait of Grover Cleveland, each queen is a portrait of his wife Frances Folsom, and each jack is a picture of his running mate Allen Thurman.
The deck includes two jokers, as well as the 52 cards of the standard deck. The jokers each include a picture of a rooster, and above the head is the word "victory". Under the tail feathers is the word "joker". All cards are 8.9cm x 6.3cm wide.
The Ace of Spades has the word "Campaign" in an arc over the spade symbol. At the bottom of the card is the words "patient applied for".
NOTE: This page was originally created and posted on the Web on March 14, 1995. Subsequently it has been modified and periodically updated. Last update: June 11, 2010