by Tony Hall
There are references to “progressive whist” or “whist drives” during the 19th and early years of the 20th century, but this form of the game was to come into its own, and become a major social event during the 1920s and 30s. It was an ideal opportunity for groups of like-minded people to socialise and to demonstrate their card –playing skills. For some, it was evidently taken very seriously; for many others it was an excuse for socialising and fun.
Reflecting and encouraging this trend, stationery manufacturers (and in particular Goodall & Son) were quick to produce score cards to facilitate progressive whist occasions. Hundreds of cards were produced in a wide range of styles. My own collection numbers 200 or so different cards and these just scratch to surface of a social trend which was hugely popular between the wars. The many examples below range from the early twentieth century to the 1970s. It is still possible to buy new ones today. Most are impossible to date accurately except by reference to the design and the social context in which they were made and sold. Consequently it is possible to see that the vast majority were produced during the social upheavals of the 1920s and 30s when “progressive” forms of Whist and Bridge were most popular.
All the items needed for a successful occasion were available commercially. Here is a set of stylish table cards for a 12 table encounter, together with a rather formal invitation card.
There were many variations in style, from the very Victorian to the trendier, more “modern” variety. All offered simple round by round straight scoring, with partnerships moving after each hand in a pre-determined pattern. Books were published from the 1870s onwards advising on the best forms of progression from table to table.
Cards typically offered up to 24 hands, with an attached pencil to enable players to keep a record of their various partners as the evening progressed.
They were available in boxes. Chas. Goodall & Son were major producers in huge variety. This classic set contains the rules, 12 cards, 12 pencils.
The designs were legion:
and literally hundreds more in a wide variety of styles.
This one is interesting because it appears to have been commissioned for a particular event, backprinted with the names of the donors and sponsors:
And this variant suggests a “Social Class” reference...
Once Progressive Whist became popular, a range of variations were developed to maintain or increase the interest. One advert for “Golf Whist” (dated 1909) gives a clue as to the appeal of such variants. It reads: “Golf Whist is a modification of the Progressive Whist scoring cards to give the game the sporting interest of golf... The main principle... is that the first 18 rounds are treated as the ‘holes’ in a golf course and the lowest score for the ‘round’ ... gets the Golf Prize. It will be found that the new element causes much merriment, and that it is some consolation for a poor score at any table to be regarded as a good Golf score.” Whist was being promoted as more for fun than for the classical skills of serious play.
The variations were popular and almost endless.
CRAZY Whist introduced minor changes in each round as the game progressed.
There were many other variants, all seeking to add something to the standard progressive game. Each with their own scoring variations as players moved from one table to the next.
There was Klondyke:
Member since January 30, 2015View Articles
I started my interest in card games about 70 years ago, playing cribbage with my grandfather. Collecting card game materials started 50 years or so later, when time permitted. One cribbage board was a memory; two became the start of a collection currently exceeding 150!
Once interest in the social history of card games was sparked, I bought a wooden whist marker from the 1880s which was ingenious in design and unbelievably tactile. One lead to two and there was no stopping.
What happened thereafter is reflected in my articles and downloads on this site, for which I will be eternally grateful.
Also by Tony Hall
Another pack of Dutch costume playing cards c.1880.
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.
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.
Khanhoo by Charles Goodall & Son, 1895.
Rainbow card game and colour mixing guide printed by Goodall & Sons for Robert Johnson, c.1920.
I suppose people collect for different reasons, rarity, quality, ingenuity of design, sentimental value... by Tony Hall.
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.
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.
“TDC Inc.: a 20th Century American Playing Card Maker” by Michael Cooper.
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).
“Ocean to Ocean” Canadian Pictorial Souvenir pack by Chas Goodall & Son Ltd, c.1912.
Ocean to Ocean Souvenir of Canada by Chas Goodall & Son Ltd, c.1905.
Facsimile of Tarot de Marseille by Iohann Christoph Hes, Augsburg, c.1750.
Notgeld - Emergency Money - was in rare cases issued on playing cards.
Worshipful Company Pack manufactured by Chas Goodall & Son, 1893.
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.
International Football Whist published by Pepys Games, 1947.
No.4 Special Whist (American Skat) playing cards made by the Russell & Morgan Printing Company, 1889.
Dal Negro Bridge set featuring old Vienna pattern courts.