A patent was issued on February 9, 1864 to Cyrus W. Saladee of Paducah, Kentucky, under patent number 41,587. It is believed to be the first American deck with corner indices.
“My invention consists in combining a number or letter with an emblem - such as a heart, spade, club or diamond - so that upon seeing the emblem, which may be in a corner, the denomination of the card is at once understood.”
This idea revolutionized American card manufacture by enabling players to fan the cards to view only the corner of each card, sufficient to see the indices. This was soon followed by Andrew Dougherty’s patent for “Triplicates” and other novel systems of index types which were adopted by other manufacturers until, over time, they became the new norm.
Andrew Dougherty first secured a patent for “Triplicates” in 1875, a novel type of indices with a miniature card in the top left-hand corner (and bottom right). These kept Dougherty at the forefront of innovation. There are several variations in the size and design of the “Triplicate” indices, with the smallest being the earliest. Dougherty's “Triplicates” have a specially designed Ace of Spades with a spread of cards inside the central Spade symbol demonstrating the innovation.
In 1876, the year after Dougherty, Robert Chanony of France patented the same idea. Patent number US182166►
“The object of my invention is to improve playing-cards by rendering it possible for players to distinguish the cards in their hands without exposing them ... and this I accomplish by combining with each card one or more miniature representations thereof, as shown in the accompanying drawing.”
Dougherty’s innovations include adding Best Bowers, Jokers, rounded corners and introducing various novel types of indices to his cards. In 1883 he was granted a patent for numbered indices, or “Indicators”, printed outside the border, along with the earlier form of “Triplicates”. It also has small breaks in the borders, as in Spanish cards, (see earlier patent for this) and these innovations helped players distinguish cards by only peeping at the corners.
These “Indicators”, printed outside the border, soon became standard.
Many brands were issued featuring these new “Indicators”. The main distinguishing feature was the box. Brands include “Ivorette”, “Tudor”, “Tandem”, “Mogul”, “Sunset” etc.
Regarding Dougherty's “Indicator” indices that were patented in 1883, that would have been just six years after NYCCC obtained its own patent for “Squeezers”, which are more or less the same idea. It is difficult to understand what difference there was between NYCCC's “Squeezers” and Dougherty's “Indicators” that would warrant each company being granted patent rights at about the same time.
Similar new ideas were being introduced or imitated simultaneously by other manufacturers both in USA and elsewhere, with various different patented brand names, such as “Squeezers”, “Dexters”, “Eureka”, etc. so that the corner indices we now take for granted were born from these competing innovations.
The Muir & Moodie Photography Studio (1898-1916) published post cards and other photographic items documenting events in New Zealand daily life. The playing cards shown here, described on the extra card as the Greatest Novelty of the Century, feature “Triplicate” indices and corner pip arrangements on the numeral cards. The cards were printed in Bavaria (Germany) for export to New Zealand where they were sold.
The "Dexter indexes" are interesting in that the suit-signs in the corners bear a number in white upon them; the 2s and 3s have had their pips moved to accomodate this scheme. The corners of the Aces bear the outline of the respective suit, in which is the word ace. There is no marking of any sort on the Ace of Spades. The suit signs on the courts bear the letters Kg on a King, Qn on a Queen, and a Kn (shorthand for "Knave") on a Jack. The original Dexter indices placed inside the corner pips had several variants: Kn or J for Jack; two arrangements of Aces, twos and threes; and 1 or ace on the Aces. This type of index was introduced in around 1878 and continued until c.1890. There are no jokers in this edition.
Packs with corner indices, along with rounded corners, had been introduced by Woolley & Co as a novelty around 1878-79 and were sold at that time for one shilling per pack. There were two versions: one with diagonal twos and threes, the other with vertical twos and threes, with small corner indices as on the ace of spades. Sometimes the AS doesn’t have an index. Both Woolley and De La Rue retained the original names for their indices after they had changed to ordinary ones. Palace Gold Dexter Moguls were still being advertised in 1931.
Right: during the period c.1870-1890 indices were being introduced on playing cards. Packs are sometimes found with hand-written indices where players have improvised in interesting ways, providing documentary evidence of the days when corner indices were still in their infancy.
Member since February 01, 1996View Articles
Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.
Another pack of Dutch costume playing cards c.1880.
Pack celebrating the rugby world champions of 2003. Produced by MMcardz.
Standard French designs adapted for children. Made by France Cartes for La Grande Récré, c.2016.
A recreated of the original 1876, No. 18, Triplicate deck by A. Dougherty by Michael Scott in 2014.
Triangle Playing Cards by Michael Scott.
Complete re-design of traditional pack into what the publishers considered to be ergonomically efficient.
Luxury packs of cards have been produced since the 15th century, a trend that is very popular among collectors today.
Dutch costume playing cards made for the Dutch market in the second half of the 19th century.
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.
In standard English packs the Ace of Spades is associated with decorative designs. This is a historical survey of why this should be.
Playing cards are used for fortune-telling, predicting the future or even as a psychological adjunct to folk medicine and therapy.
Dubois card makers from Liège in the Walloon Region of Belgium.
PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History
This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the lives of previous owners make it all so fascinating.
Video by Art of Impossible. In this video you will get a short overview of the most important historical facts about playing cards and their history.
Archaic Spanish-suited deck with 48 cards made in Toledo in 1584.
Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern
A facsimile of an early 19th century French-suited deck from the collection of F.X. Schmid.
Warren Paper Products Co., Lafayette, Indiana, publishers of Built-Rite toys, games and puzzles.
Rainbow card game and colour mixing guide printed by Goodall & Sons for Robert Johnson, c.1920.
Reproduction of Richard Blome’s Heraldic playing cards, 1684, presented to lady guests at WCMPC Summer Meeting in 1888.
Facsimile of “Le Jeu de la Guerre” designed by Gilles de la Boissière in 1698.
A Royal Game featuring Queen Victoria’s children and extended family, published by A. Collier, London, c.1896.
In 1932, a patent was granted to Colin Hart and George Franklin for a leather case in the form of a book cover for playing cards.
Corner Indices were a major innovation in playing card production.
Baraja Carlos IV, Félix Solesio en la Real Fábrica de Macharaviaya, 1800.
A presentation of the main characteristics of the wood-block courts of the heart suit.
This is a presentation in a more straightforward fashion of the work done by Paul Bostock and me in our book of the same name.
Some further material relating to cards from nineteenth and twentieth century periodicals.
Facsimile of patriotic 1878 Tyrolean playing cards published by Piatnik in 1992.
Here are a few early advertisements relating to cards from newspapers 1684-1759 and a number of later 19th century documents of interest.
Hand-made playing cards by French prisoners of war in Porchester Castle, Hampshire, c.1796.
A continuation of the development of the off-spring of the Paris patterns and a few examples of how the French regional figures have inspired modern designers.
A great many regional patterns were exported from France and subsequently copied elsewhere. Some of them became local standards in their own right.
Continuing our look at the figures from the regional patterns of France.
On page 11 I illustrated several examples of the regional French patterns from Sylvia Mann's collection; this is a more in-depth look at the figures of these patterns ("portraits" in French).
Facsimile of Tarot de Marseille by Iohann Christoph Hes, Augsburg, c.1750.
Notgeld - Emergency Money - was in rare cases issued on playing cards.
There are some interesting packs from Goodall in the last quarter of the 19th century.
1st edition of famous Bicycle Playing Cards printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885.