The World of Playing Cards Logo
Published April 18, 2010 Updated October 01, 2023

Happy Families

Happy Families is probably one of the most popular card games ever invented, with educational benefits relating to sorting and matching of sets, as well as early literacy and elementary genealogy, flowers or bird identification, etc.

Childhood Card Games Happy Families Quartet Add to Collection
Happy Families card games

Introduction

The format of the pack of playing cards - with its suit symbols, numeral cards, court hierarchy - lends itself to many secondary purposes, especially early learning. Alongside standard playing cards we have every possible kind of card game. Victorian children's playing cards were intended to have educational value. A good example is Quartet games and Happy Families which have educational benefits for children, encouraging congenial play and developing counting, sorting and matching skills, as well as early literacy and familiarity with different occupations.

“Jeu de Sept Familles” produced by Mauclair Dacier in the late 19th century

Above: “Jeu de Sept Familles” produced by Mauclair Dacier in the late 19th century.   More...

The Anglo Saxon “Happy Families” was possibly inspired by the “Doctor Busby” game invented by Anne Abbot in around 1840 to entertain her children and later sold to W & S B Ives of Salem Massachusetts. It proved to be very popular in the USA and UK. “Doctor Busby“ has sets of 5 cards depicting four members of a household and a symbol of their trade. Jaques may have been influenced by this game when they published their “Happy Families” in about 1851.

The French game of “Jeu de Sept Familles” is first known from 1876 designed by André Gill, a cartoonist. The game was intended more for adults at first rather than children. The families consisted of Father, Mother, Son, Daughter Valet and Cook. They were also definitely not tradesmen as most of the Happy Families packs were. M Gill went for Doctor, Lawyer, General, Minister etc although there were a few unsavoury characters thrown in too, like a Smuggler. In time the families became more like the ones we are familiar with and had comic names with a connection to their trades.

Jaques’ Happy Families, 1851

Jaques Happy Families, c.1880

Above: four cards from an 1880s edition of Happy Families published by John Jaques & Son, 102 Hatton Garden, London, which included 11 families of four members each. Jaques' Happy Families was originally published in 1851 and shown at the Great Exhibition of that year. It was an instant success, rapidly superseding similar games in which players collected sets of four cards.   More...

Happy Families is probably one of the most popular games ever invented. The production of Jaques' Original Happy Families in the mid-nineteenth century, with cartoons designed by John Tenniel (later Sir John, chief cartoonist of Punch), led to the appearance of numerous other 'family'-type games. It is interesting to see the great variety of different names given to the copy-cat games and the families. Jaques' Original Happy Families designs were copied, sometimes with only slight modifications, by later manufacturers as recently as the 1970s, testifying to their enduring popularity.

Various alternatives of ‘Happy Families’ were mirrored in several countries. A similar game appeared in Germany called ‘Quartett’ and a French game ‘Jeu de Sept Familles’ featured seven families with six members each. At that time Jaques may have been able to assert a copyright on the title, as some of the alternate names for ‘Happy Families’ were: Cheery Families; Funny Families; Merry Families; Jovial Families; Jolly Families and Familiar Families.

“John Bull” published by W. Cremer, c.1865

It is curious that "John Bull" is not called Happy Families although the sets are described as "families" on the instruction card.   more

“John Bull”, the Capital English Game published by W. Cremer, c.1865.

Above: “John Bull”, the Capital English Game published by W. Cremer, c.1865.  more

De La Rue’s Cheery Families, c.1890

Cheery Families, De La Rue, c.1890

Above: cards from Cheery Families manufactured by De La Rue, London, c.1890.   More...

The Chad Valley Games Happy Families, c.1914

Happy Families, Chad Valley Games, c.1914... a child's poetic universe

Above: cards from The Round Card Game of Happy Families, published by Chad Valley Games, England. 1914   more →

Spear’s Games Happy Families, c.1925

Happy Families, Spear's Games, c.1925

Above: cards from Happy Families - the amusing party game, published by Spear's Games, Enfield, England. c.1925. The set has eight families, making a total of 36 cards. The design of the cards has reverted to the slightly grotesque style originated by Jaques, with large heads and the addition of bright red lips. The rules are printed on the back of the box, and in this version players must contribute counters to a pool, which the winner and runner-up collect and share between them, thereby introducing a business element into the game. J. W. Spear & Son also produced 'ABC Happy Families', 'Merry Families' and 'Funny Families' in several editions as well as a variety of other interesting games.  

Teddy Bear Happy Families

Teddy Bear Happy Families, c.2000

Above: cards from Teddy Bear Happy Families designed by Peter Wood and Simon Wintle.   More...

Happy Families is one of the most popular card games ever devised, and it comes in many different guises. In all cases they offer the same benefits for early learners for developing matching and pairing skills, communication and social etiquette. Other variations on the same theme include quartet games based around Animals, Flowers or Bird sets, and also the well-known ‘Top Trumps’ series of quartet games featuring cars, aeroplanes, ships and so on.

More card games on this site:   Animal GrabBelishaBlack PeterBritish TownsCartes Questions-DevinettesChange for a ShillingCounties of EnglandCromyCard GamesCow & Gate Happy Family gameDartexEditorial Gráfica FloresEl Negrito PedroEl Reloj Card GameFamous FiveGolden Egg GameGnavHappy FamiliesJack-of-all-TradesHijitusHee Trading CoIllustrated ProverbsJaques' GamesJaques' Happy FamiliesJewish Quartet GameKay SnapKingdoms of EuropeLondon PostHee Trading Co, MalaysiaMarché 7 FamillesMauclair Dacier Sept FamillesMexican Lottery GameNoddy Happy FamiliesPekka-PeliPepys GamesPeruvian Animals QuartetProverbs & MaximsReshuffleSnip SnapTower PressVic Joc de CartesWalt DisneyWereldvlucht KwartetWild Flower SevensWoodland Old MaidWoodland SnapZoo Comics

In the casino, blackjack is the most popular card game. When you would like to play the card game blackjack you can play it for free or for real money. Be sure to check your local rules for gambling online.

avatar
1439 Articles

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder 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.


Related Articles

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.

2022 Jeu des 7 familles basques

Jeu des 7 familles basques

A Happy Families-type game from the Basque country, with designs by Soledad Bravi and Agathe de Las...

1770 Cartes enfantines

Cartes enfantines

Miniature 18th century Paris pattern cards for children, with decorated aces and 2s.

2022 Tarot for Baby

Tarot for Baby

This board book simplifies tarot archetypes into accessible affirmations for young children.

1875 Lend Me Five Shillings

Lend Me Five Shillings

or “Her Majesty’s Privy Purse” - a merry round-the-table game published by D. Ogilvy.

1875 Laughing Made Easy

Laughing Made Easy

a Victorian card game published by D. Ogilvy.

2002 Classic Card Games for Kids

Classic Card Games for Kids

A boxed set of playing cards, Happy Families and an alphabet pack with rules for 22 games.

1904 So-Lah – A Game of Music

So-Lah – A Game of Music

An early 20th century domino-type musical card game by Goodall.

1877 Word Making and Word Taking

Word Making and Word Taking

How crossword and spelling games became popular.

Le jeu des 7 Familles ’Utuafare

Le jeu des 7 Familles ’Utuafare

Colourful Happy Families game from Tahiti depicting costumes from different archipelagoes.

The Search for New Games in the late 19<sup>th</sup> century

The Search for New Games in the late 19th century

A few new games survived and are still around today; most came and went and are only witnessed in th...

1760 Vogelspiel

Vogelspiel

Vogelspiel, a German card game known as the “cuckoo game” also known as “Gnau”.

2002 Sa Majesté, le roi des jeux de cartes

Sa Majesté, le roi des jeux de cartes

A colourful pack aimed at children, with illustrations by Muriel Kerba.

Hoyle v Foster: whose name should we remember?

Hoyle v Foster: whose name should we remember?

Hoyle’s name is associated with the rules by which many games are played, particularly card games B...

1742 Hoyle and his Legacy

Hoyle and his Legacy

Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769) was an English writer who made his name by writing on whist and a selection...

1900 Bridge Markers and bridge scoring methods

Bridge Markers and bridge scoring methods

Bridge Markers and bridge scoring methods 1900-1930

Pinochle

Pinochle

I have always been intrigued by the game Pinochle.

1995 Les 7 Familles Pyrénées

Les 7 Familles Pyrénées

Mountains, flowers, animals, tourist sites of the Pyrenees, all drawn by the artist Pertuzé.

1996 Jeu des 7 Familles Spider-Man

Jeu des 7 Familles Spider-Man

Colourful card game featuring the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man and some of his fearsome advers...

2016 Dungeons & Dragons “Curse of Strahd” Tarokka Deck

Dungeons & Dragons “Curse of Strahd” Tarokka Deck

Enhance your Dungeons & Dragons game with the Tarokka Deck, a tarot-inspired set of cards that bring...

1994 Old Bachelor™

Old Bachelor™

The 90’s version of Old Maid with illustrations by Susan Wise.

1998 Jeu de 7 Familles France 98

Jeu de 7 Familles France 98

Families card game with comic designs featuring seven of the teams competing in the 1998 World Cup. ...

1993 Cleveland Museum of Art artists card game

Cleveland Museum of Art artists card game

Cleveland Museum of Art artists card game, USA, c.1993.

1994 Jeu de Familles Les Pierrafeu®

Jeu de Familles Les Pierrafeu®

Quartet game featuring The Flintstones and friends.

2006 Papst Quartett

Papst Quartett

A quartet game featuring a selection of popes up to Benedict XVI.

1939 Lecardo

Lecardo

‘Lecardo’ playing cards, dominos & word building game invented by Stanley Kermode, United Kingdom, c...

1987 Pumuckl quartet game

Pumuckl quartet game

Quartet game featuring the kobold Pumuckl, creation of the German author Ellis Kaut.

1995 Charlie Brown Plays Baseball card game

Charlie Brown Plays Baseball card game

Peanuts comic strip characters on cards for regular play or a special game based on baseball.

1985 Alternative Happy Families

Alternative Happy Families

An updated, 1980s-style “Alternative Happy Families” game.

2001 Detskie

Detskie

‘Detskie’ children’s cards produced in Russia, 2001.

2014 Politically Incorrect Happy Families

Politically Incorrect Happy Families

A Happy Families set with many differences from a conventional one.

1975 Waddingtons Nursery Rhymes

Waddingtons Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhyme playing cards by Waddingtons, Leeds, UK, 1975.

2014 Vesalius Anatomy Card Game

Vesalius Anatomy Card Game

Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.

2000 Fundacja Polsat Dzieciom

Fundacja Polsat Dzieciom

Set of caricatures and cartoons in aid of a Polish children’s charity. c.2000.

2016 Cartes Illustrées

Cartes Illustrées

Standard French designs adapted for children. Made by France Cartes for La Grande Récré, c.2016.

1950 Black Peter

Black Peter

Two Black Peter games by Willy Mayrl published by Ferd Piatnik & Söhne, 1950s.

Sergeant-Major

Sergeant-Major

Sergeant-Major card game devised by W.G.Smith

Pepys Games

Pepys Games

The Story of Pepys Games by Rex Pitts

J. W. Spear and Sons

J. W. Spear and Sons

Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, G...

Chad Valley Co. Ltd

Chad Valley Co. Ltd

Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bo...

Multum in Parvo Co., Ltd

Multum in Parvo Co., Ltd

Multum in Parvo published a range of indoor games during the period from 1884-1927.