Tower Press was founded in the 1930s by Hans Ehrlich and Bernard Saalheim producing cardboard goods. In the post-war era, when rationing had only just ceased and when people didn't have a lot, it was a time when folks made the best of what they had, enjoying the simple things in life. This series of card games for children published by Tower Press during the 1950s and early '60s evokes the optimism, innocence and love of fun which is often missing today. This was the time when the baby boom was in full swing. More people were getting married and having children. Dad brought home the pay, Mum did the cooking and cleaning, and the kids were respectful and well-behaved, perhaps playing card games like the ones shown here...
Tower Press produced a total of 31 different games in their series over the years, plus 2 miniature versions and 2 giant version together with the Wilfrid Pickles game. They produced many series of card games in batches of five, beginning with the 5100 series and reaching a 6600 series at the time they were bought by Waddingtons. In addition to the odd special games they also issued the entire current series of games in one long pack entitled “House of Cards” containing all five over several years quite probably for Christmas.
The early boxes
Tower Press card game boxes arranged in chronological order.
Fairy Tale Snap, no. 5292
Funny Face Snap, no. 5369
Beat your Neighbours, no. 5481
Beat your Neighbours, no. 5613
Old Maid, no. 5614
Old Maid card games were popular in other countries, re-titled as Black Peter (Schwarzer Peter) in Germany, Zwarte Piet (Netherlands), Svarte Petter (Sweden) and Pekka-Peli (Finland). The main focus of the game is towards the last card, which might be a black cat, an Old Maid, black-faced chimney sweep or black grotesque character. The player who ends up holding this card is the loser in the game. This reflects a time when it was socially acceptable to make fun of people perceived to be of lower status. In the example below some of the ethnic stereotypes might be questioned today.
Happy Families, no. 5616
Old Maid, no. 5732
Playtime Snap No.5730
Old Maid, no. 5862
Donkey, no. 5863
Happy Families, no. 5864
Other card game titles published by Tower Press include: Ask Pickles No.6258; Donkey No.2061; Happy Families No.5367; Popeye Knock Out No.6586; Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Snap; Huckleberry Hound 'Booby' No.6648; New Money Snap, etc. Tower Press also published Jig-Saw puzzles, Cardboard Stacking Boxes, etc., as well as a children's pack in the 1950s using court cards based on Waddington's designs. Their games and jig-saws were exported to many countries particularly Australia, Belgium, The Netherlands and New Zealand. Tower Press was acquired by Guiterman and became a member of the Guiterman Group in 1961. In 1969 the business was bought by Waddingtons.
Tower Press produced many series of card games in batches of five games beginning with the 5100 series and reached a 6600 series at the time they were bought by Waddingtons. The final series of five games was published by Waddingtons with a big improvement in the quality of the cards and continuing the series of five games numbering them as a 2000 series. No more were produced after this.
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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.
52 selected views of Scotland by De La Rue (Waddingtons) for GlenAlan Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland, c.1960s.
Publicity items for a group of entertainers, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK, 1911.
Cards made by John Waddington Ltd. for the Madras Club, Chennai (formerly Madras), India, c.1930.
54 different personalities from the city of Inverness published by the Highland Hospice.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme covers from 1956 to 2016 published by Winning Moves UK Ltd.
Images from the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Training Centre, Sutherland, Scotland. Published 2010.
Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.
Great Britains’s Olympic gold medallists from 1964 to 2004 published by the British Olympic Association.
Celebration of the work of David Kindersley, stone letter-carver and typeface designer. Published by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, Cambridge, UK, 2015.
Pack celebrating the rugby world champions of 2003. Produced by MMcardz.
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.
Hall & Son
Two Black Peter games by Willy Mayrl published by Ferd Piatnik & Söhne, 1950s.
Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.
Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850.
Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.
Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.
PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History
Sergeant-Major card game devised by W.G.Smith
We are deeply saddened by news of the passing of Anthony Rex Pitts (1940-2021).
The Story of Pepys Games by Rex Pitts
Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany
Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bought by Woolworths in 1988 and now sold at Argos.
Multum in Parvo published a range of indoor games during the period from 1884-1927.
The founder of Ariel Productions, Philip Marx, was a prolific publisher of children’s books and comics towards the end of and just after the Second World War.
Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games MFG Co., Ltd, London S.E.11
Crazy People children’s card game illustrated by caricaturist and graphic artist Walter Trier, c.1950.
‘History of fashion’ cultural quartet game designed by Erika Werner-Nestler, 1954.
Dutch costumes quartet game designed by Gerard Huijg, 1983.
Panko (Votes for Women) suffragette card game published by Peter Gurney Ltd, c.1912.
Anonymous Snap game, 1930s.
Nederlands Stedenkwartet with heraldic needlepoint patterns by Permin, c.1970.
Lion Coffee Mother Goose card game, late 19th C.
Panto People published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Hats-Off! miniature card game published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Zoo-Boots published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
The XIXth Century published by John Jaques & Son, c.1875.
The ‘Rinker’ highly amusing snap game, c.1910.
Österreichisches Trachten-quartett Nr.282 published by Ferd Piatnik & Söhne.
Round the World Happy Families by Chiefton Products Ltd of Bristol, c.1950s.