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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)

Wilhelm Busch was a German caricaturist and humourist who lived from 1832-1908. There are many card games made in Germany using his characters.

Wilhelm Busch self-portrait

German card games from the collection of Rex Pitts

Wilhelm Busch was a German caricaturist and humourist who lived from 1832-1908 (during the aftermath of the unsuccessful revolutions of 1848-49). He was immensely famous in his own country and loved by all Germans due to his satirical “picture stories” in which he mocked the “Biedermeier bourgeoisie”. He is credited as the inventor of the comic strip and his cartoons and comic verse are as well known in Germany as Edward Lear’s cartoons and limericks are in England. Most famous of his characters are Max and Moritz, a couple of bumbling nitwits always in trouble. Their adventures continued from very early in Busch’s career to the very end. A later entrant was Fipps the Ape, also very popular. Many card games were produced in Germany using his characters and several are illustrated here. The Germans definitely do have a sense of humour!  See: Wikipedia article

Above: “Lustiges Wilhelm Busch Quartett” card game published by Franz Schmidt Nuremberg, 1937.

Above: “Fipps der Affe“ (Fipps the Ape) quartet game with cartoons by Wilhelm Busch published by Bielefelder Spielkarten GmbH, c.1960.

Above: “Der Lohn des Fleisses“ (The reward of diligence) card game coupled with “Die Strafe der Faulheit“ (The punishment of sloth) in verse and pictures, with cautionary tone.

Above: “Schwarzer Peter Quartett” card game published by VEB Altenburger Spielkartenfabrik, c.1960.


Max und Moritz

REFERENCES

Gladwell, Joan Elizabeth: Wilhelm Busch: The Art of Letting Off Steam Through Symbolic Inversion, PhD thesis, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 2013


Other German Comic Card Games

from the collection of Rex Pitts

Besides the range of children's card games published by B. Dondorf and J.W. Spear & Söhne which tended to be more educational, a number of comic games were produced by other German manufacturers with perhaps a preponderance of “Schwarzer Peter” games, where the main focus of the game is towards the last card, which might be a black cat, chimney sweep or homourous character:

Above: “Das Lustige Familien-Quartett” humourous card game published by Eugen Schmidt K.G., Dresden, 1930s.

Above: Walt Disney “Schwarzer Peter” game published by Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkarten-Fabriken A.G., Stuttgart.

Above: “Schwarzer Peter” game published by Ensslin & Laiblin, Reutlingen (Stuttgart), c.1890s.

Above: “Humouristic Quartett” game made in Germany.

Above: “Schwarzer Peter” game published by Dr. Herbert Schulze Buch und Kunstverlag Nachf., artwork by Herbert Zeise.

Above: Card game based on Grimms’ fairy tales.

Above: “Schwarzer Peter” published by Vereinigte Altenburger und Stralsunder Spielkarten-Fabriken A.G., Stuttgart.

Above: “Struwwel-Peter Quartett” card game.

See also: Dondorf's Pierre l'Ebouriffé

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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996.

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