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Published February 23, 2012 Updated July 14, 2022

Tower Press children’s card games

A series of card games for children published by Tower Press during the 1950s which evoke the optimism and love of fun of that era.

United Kingdom Tower Press Card Games Donkey Happy Families Old Maid Snap
Joker from children's pack made by Tower Press, c.1955 Tower Press children's card games - Nostalgia from the 1950s

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...

Dress Up Snap No.5860

Above: “Dress Up Snap” No.5860. Many of these images were used in Old Maid No.5732.

Tower Press “Old Maid” No.5862

Above: “Old Maid” No.5862.

Donkey card game, Tower Press product no.5863

Above: “Donkey” card game, Tower Press product no.5863

Tower Press Popeye Knockout No.6586

Above: Popeye Knockout No.6586.

Tower Press “Four Feather Falls Snap” No 6587

Above: Tower Press “Four Feather Falls Snap” No 6587, based on successful TV series, c1960.

Yogi Bear Snap No.6647, c 1962

Above: “Yogi Bear Snap” No.6647, c 1962. “Smarter than the average bear”.

Tower Press Huckleberry Hound Booby No 6648, c.1962

Above: Tower Press “Huckleberry Hound Booby” No 6648, c.1962.

Tower Press Disneyland Snap No.6650

Above: Disneyland Snap No.6650.

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.

Tower Press

Above: Tower Press card game boxes arranged in chronological order.

Fairy Tale Snap, no. 5292

Jack and the Beanstalk • Puss in Boots • Dick Whittington • Red Riding Hood • Sleeping Beauty • Cinderella • Aladdin • Robinson Crusoe • Hansel and Gretel

Fairy Tale Snap, No.5292

Above: 'Fairy Tale Snap', Tower Press product no.5292, featuring Dick Whittington on the box. The cards depict traditional fairy tales.  (click box to see more)

Funny Face Snap, no. 5369

Leonard the Learned • Madam Screech • Pretty Polly • Aunt Sally • Clara the Cook • Jolly Jimmy • Wicket Willie • Bobby Bingo • Cleo the Clown

Funny Face Snap, No.5369

Above: Funny Face Snap, Tower Press product no.5369. Note the wide-eyed jolly faces, bright colours, the fun and innocence... The companion game 'Old Maid' was no.5360, 'Happy Families' no.5367 and 'Donkey' no.5370.

Tower Press children's card games - Nostalgia from the 1950s

Beat your Neighbours, no. 5481

Madge the Music Student • Tilly the Typist • Susan the Shopper • Peter the Postman • Charles the Clerk • George the Guard

Beat your Neighbours No.5481

Above: Beat your Neighbours, Tower Press product no.5481. 36 cards in box + rules card. The 'Put' cards add an extra element of chance into the game. The object of the game is to win all the cards.  (click image to see more)

Beat your Neighbours, no. 5613

Two-Wheeler Winnie • Scooting Sue • Side-Car Sid • Family Joe • Sporting Sally • Sir Percy Highat

Beat your Neighbours No.5613

Above: Beat your Neighbours, Tower Press product no.5613. 36 cards in box + rules card. This edition of the game has slightly modernised images based around the theme of motoring. The back of the box lists four more games in the series: 'Donkey', 'Happy Families', 'Snap' and 'Old Maid' with the slogan “5 Card Games get them all !”. The companion game 'Animal Snap' was no.5612.

Tower Press children's card games - Nostalgia from the 1950s

Old Maid, no. 5614

Fishing • Table Tennis • Hurdling • Canoeing • Ice Skating • Running • Net Ball • Cycling • Football • Rugby • Hockey • Tennis • Cricket • Boxing • Tobogganing • Diving • Archery • Old Maid

Old Maid No.5614

Above: Old Maid, Tower Press product no.5614. 35 cards in box + rules card. The cards depict young people performing a range of sporting activities, plus one 'Old Maid' card. The back of the box lists four more games in the series: 'Donkey', 'Happy Families', 'Snap' and 'Beat your Neighbours' with the slogan “5 Card Games get them all !”. The companion game 'Animal Snap' was no.5612.

“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

Happy Families No.5616

Above: Happy Families, Tower Press product no.5616. 36 cards in box. The back of the box is simply an advert for Tower Press' four other companion card games: Snap, Old Maid, Beat your Neighbours and Donkey. Image courtesy Matt Probert.

Old Maid, no. 5732

Old Maid • Cowboy • Eskimo Boy • Welsh Girl • Mexican Boy • Chinese Boy • Swiss Boy • Cossack Boy • Spanish Dancer • Scots Girl • Red-Indian Girl • Hawaiian Girl • Dutch Boy • Swedish Girl • Indian Boy • Irish Boy • Breton Boy • Geisha Girl

Old Maid No.5732

Above: Old Maid, Tower Press product no.5732. 34 cards in box + rules card, plus one 'Old Maid' card. The backs of the cards have flip pictures. The illustrations of children from different countries were used in Dress Up Snap No.5860 and were also the inspiration for a 'Snap' game produced by Hee Trading Co., (Malaysia) in the 1980s. The back of the box lists four more games in the series: 'Donkey', 'Happy Families', 'Playtime Snap' and 'Beat your Neighbours'.  (click image to see more)

Playtime Snap No.5730

Playtime Snap No.5730

Above: Playtime Snap No.5730 with flip-pictures on the reverse. Image courtesy Matt Probert.

Old Maid, no. 5862

Tower Press children's card games - Nostalgia from the 1950s

Old Maid • The Penguin Waiter • Sorry, My Mistake • Fun with Georgie Giraffe • Mrs Fox Washes Up • Tickets Please • Mr Zebra Crossing • The Ice-Cream Man • The Park Keeper • Harry Hare in a Hurry • The Kangaroo's Tea Time • The Deep Sea Diver • I like Nuts • Mr Rhino's Hoop-La • Jumbo the Gardener • Freddie Frog Hurdling • Doorman Doormouse

Old Maid No.5862

Above: Old Maid, Tower Press product no.5862. 34 cards in box plus extra card plus one 'Old Maid' card. The illustrations and titles were also the inspiration for an 'Old Maid' game produced by Hee Trading Co., (Malaysia) in the 1980s. The companion packs are: 'Beat your Neighbours' no.5861 & 'Happy Families' no.5864. The back of the box has the rules.  (click image to see more)

Donkey, no. 5863

Donkey No.5863

Above: Donkey card game, Tower Press product no.5863 more

Happy Families, no. 5864

Bone • Bun • Dose • Fillet • Plod • Weeder • Tack • Stone • Dauber

Happy Families No.5864

Above: Happy Families, Tower Press product no.5864. 36 cards in box; lots of smiley, happy faces; the rules are printed on the back of the box.

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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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

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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.


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