Complete deck of Civil War-era playing cards, using patriotic pro-Union emblems in place of standard suits and courts.
Very good plus to near fine.
"In playing wtih these Cards, they are to be called by the names the emblems represent, and as the Emblems are as familiar as household words, everywhere among the American people, they can be used as readily the first occasion as Cards bearing Foreign emblems." – blurb printed on original box
Notwithstanding the many contemporary critics of gambling, card playing was one of the most common ways soldiers passed time during the Civil War: "For gambling or for simple fun, playing cards are a staple in memoirs of Civil War camp life. All up and down the ranks, men played cards under fire, men played cards between battles, sworn enemies played cards together in cornfields, prisons, and hospitals" (Huets).
Replacing the traditional suits are red flags, blue shields, red stars, and blue eagles. The courts are represented by majors (Jack), Lady Liberty (Queen), and colonels (King). The ace for the blue eagle, presumably the representative of the ace of spades, is the most elaborate non-court card, with a larger version of the eagle design in blue. "The whole is of very vulgar character," notes William Wilshire in his catalogue of cards at the British Library. A terrific survival of an ephemeral but ubiquitous aspect of everyday life among soldiers of the Civil War, scarce complete and in the box.
Read more: Huets, "Killing Time," New York Times, 7 September 2012; Wilshire, A Descriptive Catalogue of Playing and Other Cards in the British Museum, 325.
New York: American Card Co, 1862. 4'' x 2.75'' (box). 52 individual cards printed in blue (eagles and shields) and red (stars and flags), with versos printed in blue. Housed in original box printed in red. Tax stamp on inner sleeve of box dated 1863. Box gently worn with one joint starting and one old tape repair, very good. A few cards soiled, but overall quite clean.
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