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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.

Thomas Walters Transformation

Hand-drawn transformation pack dated 1874 with the name Thomas Walters on the ace of spades.

This is a hand-drawn transformation using a pencil on a standard pack made by Hunt’s Playing Card Manufacturing Co (London) and dated 1874. The repertoire of images on the cards includes various animals, flowers, insects, exotic costumes, eccentric persons, dinner parties, quarrels, ladies’ hats, fishes, a scientific experiment, a card game, oarsmen, a marriage, swimmers, infantry, a musical gathering, pipe smokers and a stage coach. There is also a reference to King Coffee Calcalli (QD) as well as fetish items such as skulls, cannibalism and devils. Possibly there is a connection with British rule in the Gold Coast of Africa and The Ashantee War. Some interesting amendments have also been made to the court cards.

The artist has customised the ace of spades by turning the shield into Thomas Walters’ family coat-of-arms, adding the name of his home as the motto. The supporting lion and unicorn, as well as the coronet etc., are of course part of the original ace of spades. The pack contains two self-portraits (3 Spades, 10 Hearts), presumably Thomas Walters Esq. himself, one in full dress uniform.

Hand-drawn transformation pack dated 1874

Above: hand-drawn transformation pack dated 1874. Several interesting clues in the artwork include legends on the eight of diamonds, which read ""Vote for C. Rich", "No Bribery" and "Vote for Lord Wealthy". Two money bags are being held. These and other instances may refer to socio-political events of the time which we are unable to identify. Images courtesy Barney Townshend.

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By Barney Townshend

Member since October 06, 2015

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Retired Airline Pilot, interested in: Transformation Playing Cards, Karl Gerich and Elaine Lewis. Secretary of the EPCS. Treasurer of the IPCS.

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