In 1851 the games manufacturer John Jaques of London (founded in 1795) commissioned a set of drawings from John Tenniel, later Sir John, the chief cartoonist of Punch, for their new game of Happy Families. The game was shown at the Great Exhibition of that year and was an instant success, rapidly superseding similar games such as John Bull in which players also collected sets of four cards. Jaques' version of Happy Families remained popular until the Second World War, but was lucky to survive thereafter. In 1941, during the Blitz, a large bomb destroyed the Hatton Garden factory. However, a safe, which had been kept at the top of the building and had fallen through to the basement, yielded the charred remains of an old pattern book, which included the originals for all the firm's card games and one example of the Happy Families card game - Master Potts the Painter's son. Later the printing plates for the game were discovered intact and so Happy Families lived on.
Tenniel's designs are an artisan crowd - even the doctor, the only professional among them, is reduced to 'Mr Dose'. They are also lower middle class and male orientated. Happy Families, which Tenniel drew 10 years before his illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, started a successful trend. Jaques was also one of the first games makers in England to market card games seriously. Jaques' original Happy Families designs were copied, sometimes with only slight modifications, by later manufacturers as recently as the 1970s, testifying to their enduring popularity. A miniature set was produced by Alfred Bird & Son in their custard powder packets just before WW2.