District Messengers were uniformed young men between 10 and 18 years of age who, wearing little pill-box hats and mounted on bicycles, fulfilled urgent tasks or carried telegrams through urban streets and were paid by the mile. This unusual card game, probably dating from the early 1900s, is based on this theme, and clearly embraces the values of capitalist ideology. There are twenty-six cards labelled A, B, C ... Z, plus twelve cards numbered 1, 2, 3 ... 12 each with a short rhyme at the bottom, plus seven additional cards making a total of 45 cards. The game was probably inspired by earlier editions of a board game of the same name published in America by McLoughlin Brothers in the 1880s patterned on the “rags to riches” idea.
The images show servile Messenger boys in the streets of London and other places, ever ready to go anywhere and do anything, fulfulling errands and duties for wealthy patrons who are depicted as being of higher social status and worthy to be served. Many of the rhymes refer to the low wages and unfavourable conditions of employment endured stoically by the Messenger boys, as well as their unquestioning sense of duty.
The style of clothing, the absence of motorised vehicles as well as a number of the business names or products featured in the artwork, correspond with a date of late 19th or early 20th century. For example: Sloper’s Pills, Dash & Bellamy Fishmonger, V. Benoist 36 Piccadilly, Streeter & Co (1873-1905), Morel Cobbett & Son, Hewetson’s Tottenham Court Road London, Bertram Upholsterers, Simpson & Sons livery outfitters and Dr. Jaeger’s Sanitary Woollen System, which had received its first Royal Warrant by 1910, all operated around the turn of the century.
See also Katz, Leslie: 'Who Ya Gonna Call?': District Messengers in the Sherlock Holmes Adventures►
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Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.
His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.
Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.
Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.
His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.
Publicity items for a group of entertainers, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK, 1911.
Cards made by John Waddington Ltd. for the Madras Club, Chennai (formerly Madras), India, c.1930.
54 different personalities from the city of Inverness published by the Highland Hospice.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme covers from 1956 to 2016 published by Winning Moves UK Ltd.
Images from the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Training Centre, Sutherland, Scotland. Published 2010.
Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.
Great Britains’s Olympic gold medallists from 1964 to 2004 published by the British Olympic Association.
Celebration of the work of David Kindersley, stone letter-carver and typeface designer. Published by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, Cambridge, UK, 2015.
Set of caricatures and cartoons in aid of a Polish children’s charity. c.2000.
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.
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.
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Two Black Peter games by Willy Mayrl published by Ferd Piatnik & Söhne, 1950s.
Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.
Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850.
Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.
Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.
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Multum in Parvo published a range of indoor games during the period from 1884-1927.
The founder of Ariel Productions, Philip Marx, was a prolific publisher of children’s books and comics towards the end of and just after the Second World War.
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Crazy People children’s card game illustrated by caricaturist and graphic artist Walter Trier, c.1950.
‘History of fashion’ cultural quartet game designed by Erika Werner-Nestler, 1954.
Dutch costumes quartet game designed by Gerard Huijg, 1983.
Panko (Votes for Women) suffragette card game published by Peter Gurney Ltd, c.1912.
Anonymous Snap game, 1930s.
Nederlands Stedenkwartet with heraldic needlepoint patterns by Permin, c.1970.
Lion Coffee Mother Goose card game, late 19th C.
Panto People published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Hats-Off! miniature card game published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Zoo-Boots published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
The XIXth Century published by John Jaques & Son, c.1875.
The ‘Rinker’ highly amusing snap game, c.1910.
Österreichisches Trachten-quartett Nr.282 published by Ferd Piatnik & Söhne.