Andrew Dougherty’s story is a key part of the development of the American playing card industry and he can be credited with several innovations to playing cards.
Andrew Dougherty was born in Donegal in Northern Ireland in 1827. He started his playing card business in New York in 1848. It was also the same year Wisconsin was granted statehood and that saw the end of the Mexican-American War. Dougherty's story is a key part of the development of the American playing card industry as he can be credited with several innovations to playing cards. In 1849 he moved to a new address at Cliff Street, New York, and for a short time entered into partnership with two brothers named Coughtry. Coughtry & Dougherty stayed in business until c.1853. Dougherty soon prospered on his own, changing his address several times as he moved into better premises. Dougherty died in 1905 at the age of 78 and his sons continued to run the business in New York until 1907 when the United States Playing Card Company purchased it. USPCC kept the Dougherty business operating independently until 1930 when it was combined with the New York Consolidated Company to form Consolidated-Dougherty Card Co. Inc., a division of USPCC.
Coughtry & Dougherty
Dougherty's early cards are stencil-coloured and the suit signs are often askew. The court cards often have amusing expressions. The backs are sometimes plain, or sometimes a simple pattern. The historical context is that the New York Times started its presses and Isaac Singer invented the famous Singer Sewing Machine more or less at the same time.
Dougherty had begun his card making enterprise at Brooklyn Street, then 148 Ann Stree, then at 78 Cliff Street, New York. About 1858 the Dougherty card-manufactory was moved to 26 Beekman Street. In 1864, Louis Pasteur invented what came to be known as the “pasteurization” process that he first applied to the treatment of wine, not milk. In that same year Dougherty produced his Excelsior cards. His ”Army & Navy” deck and his beautiful illuminated deck were issued in 1865, the same year that saw the laying of the transatlantic cable, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the passage of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and the publication of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In 1872 Andrew Dougherty built a new factory at 76-80 Centre Street. The cards from the Centre Street factory are double-ended, but at first they seldom have indices. When they do, and when the corners are rounded instead of square, another innovation, both facts are mentioned on the wrapper.
“The Best Bower” and “The Jolly Joker” cards
There is an old card game called Euchre which is still played to this day. It is played with a 32 card deck and at one time there were two additional cards which were extra trump cards. One was called a Bower and the other, of even higher value, was called the Best Bower. Over time the game included only one Bower card. Although the game was played with 32 cards, early American decks included a Bower or Best Bower card in their 52 card decks. This probably lead to the introduction of the Joker card.
“Triplicates” and “Indicators”
Dougherty first secured a patent for Triplicates in 1876, a novel type of indices with a miniature card in the top left-hand corner (and bottom right). These were the equivalent of NYCC's Squeezers and kept Dougherty at the forefront of innovation. There are several variations in the size and design of the Triplicate indices, with the smallest being the earliest. Dougherty's Triplicate playing cards have an intricately engraved Ace of Spades with a spread of cards inside the central Spade symbol proudly demonstrating the innovation.
Dougherty issued his final version of the triplicate brand in 1883. It introduced the beginnings of the corner numerical index and was the year that saw the opening of the famous Brooklyn Bridge, a masterpiece of engineering that still stands in full vigour today. The Manhattan end of the bridge landed just a few short blocks from Dougherty’s factory at 68 Centre Street. In 1883 Dougherty was granted a patent for “Indicator” cards with numbered indices, or “Indicators”, printed outside the border (just six years after NYCCC obtained its “Squeezer” patent for more or less the same thing). The earliest editions came with “Triplicates”, the miniature cards in the corners. These only ran for a year or less and were followed in 1894 by “Indicator No.50”.
From the 1890s on Dougherty used either ‘Andrew Dougherty’ or ‘A. Dougherty’ on his Aces of Spades. As a general rule, the longer version was used on the earlier edition of each brand.
Spanish suited cards
It is recorded that Dougherty manufactured Spanish-suited cards, stencilled in golden yellow, as early as 1849 for sale in California, Texas, Mexico, South America and even in Europe, although most surviving examples of Spanish cards are from later dates. They are vivid reminders of those adventurous gold rush days of the middle of the century.
In the early 1900s Dougherty manufactured Austro-Hungarian cards in the 'Seasons' pattern. Examples of the Netherlands pattern are also known to have been manufactured by Dougherty.
The famous “Tally-Ho” brand was issued by Dougherty in 1885, the same year that the Bicycle 808 brand was introduced by U.S.P.C.C.
This brand is still available today. The earliest Ace of Spades had the Centre Street address and the Jolly Joker was used until the “Tally-Ho” Joker was introduced in the early 1900s. The brand has seen only minor variations over the years read more →