A Brief History of Playing Cards
Did you know that at one time, the king of hearts represented Charlemagne,
the king of Diamonds was Julius Caesar, the king of clubs was Alexander the Great and the king of spades was King David from
the Bible? These fascinating identities, along with special designations for the other court cards, were bestowed by the French
who were instrumental in bringing the pleasures of card play to people in Europe and the New World.
The earliest playing cards are believed to have originated in Central
Asia. The documented history of card playing began in the 10th century, when the Chinese began using paper dominoes by shuffling
and dealing them in new games. Four-suited decks with court cards evolved in the Moslem world and were imported by Europeans
before 1370. In those days, cards were hand-painted and only the very wealthy could afford them, but with the invention of
woodcuts in the 14th century, Europeans began mass-production
It is from French designs that the cards we use today are derived.
France gave us the suits of spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts, and the use of simple shapes and flat colors helped facilitate
manufacture. French cards soon flooded the market and were exported in all directions. They became the standard in England
first, and then in the British Colonies of America.
Americans began making their own cards around 1800. Yankee ingenuity
soon invented or adopted practical refinements: double-headed court cards (to avoid the nuisance of turning the figure upright),
varnished surfaces (for durability and smoothness in shuffling), indexes (the identifying marks placed in the cards’
borders or corners), and rounded corners (which avoid the wear that card players inflict on square corners).
Americans also invented the Joker. It originated around 1870 and
was inscribed as the "Best Bower," the highest card in the game of Euchre. Since the game was sometimes called "Juker," it
is thought that the Best Bower card might have been referred to as the "Juker card" which eventually evolved into "Joker."
By the 1880s, certainly, the card had come to depict a jocular imp, jester or clown. Many other images were also used, especially
as Jokers became vehicles for social satire and commercial advertising. Similarly, the backs of cards were used to promote
ideas, products and services, and to depict famous landmarks, events — and even fads.
During this same period, cycling — on unicycles, bicycles,
and tricycles — was taking the country by storm. It was also in the latter part of the decade that Russell & Morgan,
the forerunners of the United States Playing Card Company, decided to produce a line of cards of the highest quality. Employees
were asked to suggest an attractive name for the new product, and a printer, "Gus" Berens, offered "Bicycle." His idea was
enthusiastically accepted, and the Rider Back made its debut in 1887. Since then, while the Bicycle brand has featured dozens
of different designs, the Rider Back has never gone out of production.
Today, people all over the world are familiar with the traditional
red or blue back showing cupid astride a two-wheeler. The brand has become synonymous with quality and is still "the world’s
favorite playing card."
The History of Bingo
By Mary Bellis
In the U.S., bingo was originally called "beano". It was a country fair game where a dealer would select
numbered discs from a cigar box and players would mark their cards with beans. They yelled "beano" if they won.
The game's history can be traced back to 1530, to an Italian lottery called "Lo Giuoco del Lotto
D'Italia," which is still played every Saturday in Italy. From Italy the game was introduced to France in the late 1770s,
where it was called "Le Lotto", a game played among wealthy Frenchmen. The Germans also played a version of the game
in the 1800s, but they used it as a child's game to help students learn math, spelling and history.
When the game reached North America in 1929, it became known as "beano". It was first played at a carnival
near Atlanta, Georgia. New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe renamed it "bingo" after he overheard someone accidentally yell
"bingo" instead of "beano". He hired a Columbia University math professor, Carl Leffler, to help him increase the number of
combinations in bingo cards. By 1930, Leffler had invented 6,000 different bingo cards. [It is said that Leffler then went
A Catholic priest from Pennsylvania approached Lowe about using bingo as a means of raising
church funds. When bingo started being played in churches it became increasingly popular. By 1934, an estimated 10,000 bingo
games were played weekly, and today more than $90 million dollars are spent on bingo each week in North America alone.