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►
Member since January 30, 2009
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.
A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.
A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.
A few new games survived and are still around today; most came and went and are only witnessed in th...
A miniature set of Goodall domino cards (5.9 x 3.5 cms) still in perfect condition.
“1952-2002 commemorative deck” customised with doodles by an uncredited artist, UK, 2011.
“Playing Politics ’10: With no expenses spared” featuring caricatures by Oliver Preston, published b...
Playing Politics ’92: Pack of lies with caricatures by Grant Robertson, UK.
Facsimile of Winstanley’s Geographical cards produced by Harold & Virginia Wayland, 1967.
Great inventions playing cards designed by Gary Wyatt, United Kingdom, 2011.
Festive courts on a Waddingtons pack designed to celebrate Christmas 1980.
‘Gone to Pot’: special playing cards for keen gardeners, United Kingdom.
Roy Huteson Stewart's The Tarot Strikes Back combines Star Wars with Rider-Waite tarot imagery.
“Don’t come back” playing cards produced by Hounslow NHS Primary Care Trust and Feltham Young Offend...
Randy Butterfield's House of Tudor playing cards feature detailed art in a high-quality collectible ...
Katie Abey’s rainbow-coloured designs using crazy animals to convey motivating phrases.
On-line offsite data backup publicity playing cards produced by The Bunker, United Kingdom, c. 2004....
54 different dinosaurs, both large and small, illustrated by Cecilia Fitzsimons.
Commemorative Olympic Playing Cards produced by Waddingtons exclusively for Stanley Gibbons Antiquar...
Clamcleats playing cards for sailors designed by Celia Allison, New Zealand, 1986.
“Around the world in 54 cards” hand-coloured transformation pack produced by Peter Wood, United King...
Jessel’s Bibliography of works in English on Playing Cards and Gaming describes “The first book on P...
A colourful pack aimed at children, with illustrations by Muriel Kerba.
Characters from The Broons and Oor Wullie comic strips on their 75th anniversary.
A catalogue in 54 cards of some of the treasures held within the Museum of London collections.