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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.

Swiss Costumes

Wüst's Swiss Cantons souvenir deck was published in Frankfurt in c.1875 for the emerging tourist market.

C. L. Wüst: Swiss Costumes, c.1875

Wüst's Swiss Cantons souvenir deck was first published in Frankfurt in c.1875 for the emerging commercialised tourist market which took off in the mid-19th century. Since 1863 Thomas Cook offered guided holidays to Switzerland which catered to a mixed clientele, from heads of state and princes to upwardly mobile representatives of the middle, lower middle and working classes. French suit symbols were used in this pack (rather than Swiss) making them appeal to international visitors. The costumes and canton shields along with four Aces depicting Swiss scenes were, of course, very attractive as souvenirs.

Above: Swiss Costumes pack manufactured by Conrad Ludwig Wüst, c.1875. 52 cards, copper-plate engraving, stencil coloured, square corners, no indices. Wüst's star motif can be seen on the jack of clubs. The illustrations are double-ended and different at each end and the four aces show: Thoune/Vevey, Neuchâtel/Rigi Staffel, Lausanne/Unterlaken, Berne/Chapelle de Guillaume Tell. (Click image to reverse). Images courtesy Rex Pitts.

Facsimile Edition

A facsimile edition was produced from an original copy in the Schaffhauser Spielkartenfabrik AG Müller archive. See the Box

Above: cards from the facsimile edition. Courtesy Rex Pitts.