The World of Playing Cards Logo
Published September 04, 2011 Updated December 09, 2021

Seminole Wars deck by James Y. Humphreys, Philadelphia, c.1819

Court cards from the Seminole Wars deck by J. Y. Humphreys, Philadelphia, c.1819. Ace of Spades from Jazaniah Ford's Decatur deck, 1815. Jazaniah Ford was born in Milton (Massachusetts) in 1757

USA James Y. Humphreys Historic Political Wartime Add to Collection

Historic Playing Cards

Seminole Wars deck by James Y. Humphreys, Philadelphia, c.1819

The front cover of Life Magazine, May 30, 1955, featured a colour photo of “Historic Playing Cards commemorating early U.S. events and heroes” whilst the accompanying article inside the magazine displayed “the masterpieces of colonial designers who created native styles as statesmen were building a new nation... Long before 1776 the independence of America was being declared by its arts and manufactures.. silverware, guns, furniture, houses & playing cards...”  The court cards shown are in fact from the Seminole Wars deck by J. Y. Humphreys, Philadelphia, c.1819, whilst the Ace of Spades is from Jazaniah Ford's Decatur deck, 1815.

After the Americans got rid of a king as a ruler they decided to eliminate royalty from their playing cards. General Washington himself became the king of hearts in the rare historical deck illustrated below. Thomas Jefferson is the king of clubs, John Quincy Adams the king of diamonds and General Andrew jackson (the Commander of the War) is the king of spades. The queens are classical divinities - Minerva the queen of spades, Venus the queen of hearts, Ceres of clubs, Justitia of diamonds. Jacks (or knaves) are Indian chiefs - Gy-ant-wachia the jack of diamonds, an unidentified chief the jack of spades, the Iroquois Joseph Brant the jack of clubs, Red Jacket the jack of hearts.

front cover of Life Magazine, May 30, 1955, featuring Historic Playing Cards commemorating early U.S. events and heroes

Above: the front cover of Life Magazine, May 30, 1955, featuring “Historic Playing Cards commemorating early U.S. events and heroes.”  The court cards are from J. Y. Humphreys' Seminole Wars deck, c.1819, whilst the Ace of Spades is from Jazaniah Ford's Decatur deck, 1815. The cards are hand-coloured with stencilled pips.

The wealthier colonists played “Pope Joan,” quadrille and whist. Few of them kept as full a gambling record as George Washington, whose diaries show that he lost six pounds, three shillings and three pence between 1772 and 1775. After he took control of the Continental army he banned card games among his men, as it was impossible to discriminate between “innocent play” and “criminal gaming.”

avatar
1,432 Articles

By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


Related Articles

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

Woodblock and Stencil King of Diamonds

A limited edition art print of the King of Diamonds 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

Woodblock and Stencil Jack of Hearts

A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

Woodblock and Stencil Joker

A limited edition art print of the 1984 woodblock joker.

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

Woodblock and Stencil Queen of Clubs

A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.

Storia del Fascismo - gioco di carte

Storia del Fascismo - gioco di carte

‘Storia del Fascismo’ playing cards depicting persons, symbols and artifacts associated with Italian...

1976 Le Giscarte

Le Giscarte

Le Giscarte political playing cards designed by Eddy Munerol, France, 1976.

2003 Safety playing cards

Safety playing cards

Safety playing cards designed to reinforce the “Think and Be Safe” concept.

2016 Politicards 2016 & Politikids 2016

Politicards 2016 & Politikids 2016

Politicards™ 2016 & Politikids 2016: twin decks of satirical playing cards produced by Peter Green f...

2004 K Deck

K Deck

“K Deck” political playing cards, USA, c. 2004.

2016 Tuxedo playing cards

Tuxedo playing cards

Stylish ‘Tuxedo’ playing cards with animal faces created by Natalia Silva, USA, 2016.

2003 The Deck of Hillary

The Deck of Hillary

‘The Deck of Hillary’ with quotes and photographs of Hillary Clinton, USA, 2003.

2005 Shakespeare playing cards: Insults

Shakespeare playing cards: Insults

Shakespeare Insults playing cards with portraits by Jan Padover, USA, 2005.

2004 Shakespeare playing cards: Quotes

Shakespeare playing cards: Quotes

Shakespeare playing cards: Quotes, the first volume of a double set published by Prospero Art of San...

1883 Jeu Quatre Empereurs

Jeu Quatre Empereurs

Brazilian scenic aces with emperors of Brazil, Austria and France and other dignitaries on the court...

2012 Old Testament playing cards

Old Testament playing cards

Old Testament playing cards with illustrations by Jan Padover, USA, 2012.

2008 Politicards 2008

Politicards 2008

Politicards ’08 with caricatures cast as characters from classic movies, USA.

2003 Starz behind bars

Starz behind bars

Starz behind bars playing cards with mug shots of the rich and famous under arrest, USA, 2003.

2003 House of Cards: Deck of Bush

House of Cards: Deck of Bush

House of Cards: Deck of Bush playing cards presenting reasons not to re-elect President Bush for a s...

1870 Kings and Queens of Brazil & Portugal

Kings and Queens of Brazil & Portugal

Historical playing cards by C. L. Wüst depicting monarchs of Brazil and Portugal.

Southern Comfort

Southern Comfort

Southern Comfort whiskey playing cards, USA.

2011 Holy Trinity Church playing cards

Holy Trinity Church playing cards

Holy Trinity Church commemoration playing cards, USA, 2011.

1992 Batman® playing cards

Batman® playing cards

Characters from Batman: The Animated Series on a pack issued in 1992.

2010 FDR New Deal Deck

FDR New Deal Deck

Facsimile of ‘FDR New Deal Deck’ of 1934 re-published by Bill Schroeder, USA, 2010.

2008 Gay / Really straight Republican hypocrites

Gay / Really straight Republican hypocrites

Gay / Really straight Republican hypocrites, USA, 2008

2008 Politically Wild John McCain

Politically Wild John McCain

“Politically Wild John McCain” published by Newt’s Playing Cards, USA, 2008.

Mohegan Sun playing cards

Mohegan Sun playing cards

Mohegan Sun playing cards published by Gemaco for Mohegan Sun casino.

1970 Ripley’s Believe It or Not! playing cards

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! playing cards

Strange facts from Robert Ripley’s ‘Believe It or Not’ books, in the form of cartoons.

2020 Undressed deck

Undressed deck

Undressed deck created by Edi Rudo and Néro Catineau, USA, 2020.

Fate fortune telling cards

Fate fortune telling cards

Fate fortune telling cards published by Merrimack Publishing Corporation, USA.

2004 Politicards 2004

Politicards 2004

Politicards 2004 with satirical cartoons by the award-winning illustrator Peter Green, USA.

1972 Politicards 1971

Politicards 1971

Politicards 1971 for the presidential election in which Richard Nixon won a landslide victory.

1996 Politicards 1996

Politicards 1996

Politicards ’96 with satirical caricatures on every card by Peter Green, USA.

1984 Politicards 1984

Politicards 1984

Politicards 1984 with caricatures by Donald Gates, published by the Kamber Group, USA.

1980 Politicards 1980

Politicards 1980

Politicards 1980 in which Ronald Reagan defeated the incumbent Jimmy Carter, with caricatures by Kei...

1981 Card Tricks

Card Tricks

Stereotypical representations of gay men and men they most admire, in a 1981 pack from San Francisco...

1974 Royal flash playing cards

Royal flash playing cards

Royal flash playing cards with non-standard suits, USA, 1974.

1975 Ms. playing cards

Ms. playing cards

‘Ms. playing cards’ promoting votes for women, USA, 1975.

1986 Old Met playing cards

Old Met playing cards

Old Met playing cards published by the Metropolitan Opera Guild, USA, 1986.

2010 Playing Politics 2010

Playing Politics 2010

“Playing Politics ’10: With no expenses spared” featuring caricatures by Oliver Preston, published b...

1992 Playing Politics ’92: Pack of lies

Playing Politics ’92: Pack of lies

Playing Politics ’92: Pack of lies with caricatures by Grant Robertson, UK.

2016 Don Quixote playing cards

Don Quixote playing cards

Don Quixote playing cards designed by Nam Tibon, USA, 2016.

2005 B-Deck

B-Deck

“B-Deck” scurrilous playing cards poking fun at a former UK prime minister.

2017 Calaveras De Azúcar

Calaveras De Azúcar

Calaveras De Azúcar playing cards produced by Natalia Silva, USA, 2017.

52 Ways to talk about adoption

52 Ways to talk about adoption

‘52 Ways to talk about adoption’ family-centred playing cards produced by the Center for Adoption Su...