The format of the pack of playing cards - with its suit symbols, numeral cards, court hierarchy - lends itself to many secondary purposes, especially early learning. Alongside standard playing cards we have every possible kind of card game. Victorian children's playing cards were intended to have educational value. A good example is Quartet games and Happy Families which have educational benefits for young children, encouraging congenial play and developing counting, sorting and matching skills, as well as early literacy and elementary genealogy, flowers or bird identification, whatever the case may be.
Happy Families is probably one of the most popular games ever invented. The production of Jaques' Original Happy Families in the mid-nineteenth century, with cartoons designed by John Tenniel (later Sir John, chief cartoonist of Punch), led to the appearance of numerous other 'family'-type games. It is interesting to see the great variety of different names given to the copy-cat games and the families. 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.
Various alternatives of Happy Families were mirrored in several countries. A similar game appeared in Germany called Quartett and a French game Jeu de Sept Familles featured seven families with six members each: Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Grandmother and Grandfather. Some of the alternate names for Happy Families were: Cheery Families; Funny Families; Merry Families; Jovial Families; Jolly Families and Familiar Families.
Happy Families is one of the most popular card games ever devised, and it comes in many different guises. In all cases they offer the same benefits for early learners for developing matching and pairing skills, communication and social etiquette. Other variations on the same theme include quartet games based around Animals, Flowers or Bird sets, and also the well-known Top Trumps series of quartet games featuring cars, aeroplanes, ships and so on.