A. Van Genechten, 1856-1970
Antoon Van Genechten ran a flourishing business, supplying various kinds of cards both inside the country and abroad including England, Spain, France, Denmark, South-East Asia (Thailand, Java, the Celebes), India, China and Japan. Van Genechten supplied prayerbooks (even in Spanish) and also paper to Mexico. The company's sales and production facilities were finally merged, along with Brepols and Biermans, into the newly formed company Carta Mundi in 1970.
The firm of A. Van Genechten was determined to conquer the overseas markets, so their products had to be of a high quality. In 1852 Glénisson & Van Genechten, printers and playing card manufacturers, had installed the very first steam engine in Turnhout. This made larger machines possible, which were too heavy to be powered manually, and larger scale production. A price list from the 1850s states that Van Genechten was the sole owner of the Belgian patent for exports of cards with rounded corners, stiffened or metallised in gold and silver. In 1868 Van Genechten had been granted an official licence to print playing cards with Chinese and Japanese paintings. On the death of Antoon Van Genechten in 1874 his son-in-law Jan de Somer took over running the business. In 1882 the Van Genechten company won a medal for their "papers and playing cards" at the London Exhibition. In 1885 at the World Exhibition in Antwerp the company won a diploma of honour, a gold medal and a silver medal for its products. In 1909, three years before De Somer himself died, the firm was made into a limited company.
The first trademark registered by Van Genechten was the bust of the "Great Moghul" (23 August 1881) followed by an Ace of Spades with the initials A.V.G. and the words "Sole Agent Koerber, London". Then a "postilion mounted on a trotting horse passing through a gate, in his hand a playing card surrounded by a garland" was registered on 10 April 1883. This card was called a Joker, in a pack destined for export to Canada, and was engraved by Baddeley Bros of London. In 1888 this was followed by the Sailor and the Skater, both designed by Houssiaux of Brussels. Van Genechten had problems with imitations of his trademarks being produced by competitors and legal disputes sometimes arose. A number of trademarks were registered in the countries for which they were destined. In 1908 another Brussels engraver named Becker designed a Joker with a long face, holding a balloon in his right hand.
A price list from the 1850s reveals a wide assortment of cards available in those days: Cartes Orientales, or Crimean Cards (still being sold in 1887); Bongoût (copperplate engraving); Moghul coloured A (magnificent cards not intended for India), Moghul coloured by chromolithography; Italiennes; Suisses; Belges; Hollandaises; Allemandes; Fines; A la Rose (cards for the Liėge region); Marbrées; Francfortoises; Fines Extra; Royales; Cartes Anglaises; Cartes Américaines; Cartes Turques; Cartes Espagnoles; Cartes Portugaises. In later sample books pictorial Aces and historic personages were added to the range. It also comes to light that Van Genechten sometimes had cards produced for them by arrangement with Brepols and also vice-versa, Van Genechten supplied cards to Brepols.
In October 1912 a fire broke out in the factory. A newspaper report gives a good description of the premises. The building was 70 metres long. On the ground floor were 50 glazing machines; marbled paper was produced here as well. The first floor was a stockroom, but machines had been set up here too: two sizing machines, three calenders and two trimmers. The pasteboard room was at the top floor. The fire started in the machine room in the rear wing of the building, and caused damage estimated at over a quarter of a million francs, but luckily the firm had insurance cover.
In 1937 the firm's centenary was celebrated. By then the workshops covered a total area of 20,000 sq. metres, and employed about 400 workers. English, French, Spanish and Chinese playing cards of all grades, both for the domestic market and for export, as well as advertising packs, were produced. In 1968 Etablissements Antoine Van Genechten took over Mesmaekers and in 1970 the Dutch firm Speelkaartenfabriek Nederland (Amsterdam).
Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany
RCI Playing Cards, a 20th century playing-card maker of Minneapolis, 1969-1985.
The firm of Thomas Woolley lasted for many years from 1836-1904 in several different guises.
Parker Brothers, Salem, Mass., USA.
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The “Star” special pack of playing cards manufactured by Thomas De la Rue under their Empire Card Co subsidiary, c.1910.
Hudson Industries Pty Ltd of Carlton in Victoria was first registered as a printing company in 1920. In the 1940s they registered their own distinctive ace of spades and joker.
John Sands had incorporated the earlier playing card manufacturing businesses of Hudson Industries Pty Ltd and Valentine Publishing Co.
The Valentine Group, Australia.
Goodall’s earliest cards were traditional in appearance but in around 1845 ‘modernised’ courts were designed
British Playing Cards Ltd was the predecessor of Universal P.C.Co. and involved Alf Cooke of Leeds and Bemrose of Birmingham, and maybe one or two other printing firms.
In 19th century England there were a number of makers who produced cards in relatively small quantities.
This page continues the presentation of examples of the major English cardmakers of the 19th century.
An overview of the courts and aces of spades produced by James English.
Standard Playing Card Co. started producing playing cards in c.1890 but was in business for only about four years before United States Playing Card Company acquired it in 1894.
The American Bank Note Company was a long-established firm producing national currency, finely engraved stock certificates and other security printing, including postage stamps. They also entered the playing card market c.1908-1914.
An ‘Old Frizzle’ Ace of Spades was assigned to them in 1833. In 1853 James L. & J. Turnbull were listed as ‘Makers of Playing Cards, Pasteboard, Paper Glossers and Pressers and Drawing Board Makers.
Willis W. Russell started a modest playing card business in Milltown, a small town in northern New Jersey, in 1905.
Thomas Wheeler appears in directories at 2 Richbell St (1799), 8 Middle Row, Holborn (1801), 118 Holborn Hill (1802-07) and 127 Holborn Hill (1807-21).
During the 1930s The Ormond Printing Co. Ltd produced playing cards for the Irish market with a distinctive ace of spades, joker and court cards. In 1935 the firm was acquired as a manufacturing facility for Waddington’s cards in Eire.
In December 1831 Thomas de la Rue was granted his patent for printing playing cards by letterpress.
Irish Playing Card Manufacturing Company.
Igor Domicelj commenced producing playing cards in c.1945. By the early 1950s the range had grown to include Naipes La Estrella, Barcelonesa, Chinita, La Española, Fantasio, Cartas Gitanas, Naipes Tipo Húngaro and a Jewish Quartet game.
Berger also produced a Hungarian-type "Seasons" pack with the brand name "La Estrella" and a six-pointed star logo, which was subsequently used by Domicelj and Vigor, suggesting some sort of business succession.
A. Van Genechten ran a flourishing business, supplying various kinds of cards both inside the country and abroad including England, Spain, France, Denmark, South-East Asia, China and Japan.
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Brown & Bigelow of St Paul, Minnesota, was a leading producer of playing cards in the U.S. from the late 1920s - 1980s.
Thai Playing Cards Manufacturing Factory
SOIMCA - Sociedade Impressora Caxiense - is an important playing card manufacturer in Brazil. It was established by Nelson Soares in Caxias do Sul, in the south of Brazil, by 1955.
Rotxotxo Workshop Inventories, Barcelona, 1660-1800.
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The luxury playing card factory founded in Frankfurt am Main by Bernhard Dondorf in 1833 existed for 100 years.
Aluette playing cards manufactured by Dieudonné & Cie, Angers (France), early 20th century.
Non-Standard playing cards manufactured by Joseph Glanz, Vienna, Austria, 1862.
Litográfica del Perú S.A. were manufacturers of playing cards in Peru sometime around the decades of the 1970s and/or 1980s.
The Western Playing Card Company was formed in 1927. The exact history and origins are not clear.
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