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Published April 12, 2018 Updated March 20, 2022

Bicycle Playing Cards, 1st edition

1st edition of famous Bicycle Playing Cards printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885.

1885 USA Russell & Morgan United States Playing Card Co. Bicycle History Add to Collection

The first Bicycle deck was introduced in 1885 by the Russell & Morgan Printing Company, Cincinnati, one of the predecessor companies to USPCC. It features the first ‘Bicycle’ ace of spades and includes a “Best Bower” joker riding a high-wheel bicycle. It was issued with seven different back designs including ‘Lotus’, the one shown here. The number ‘808’ had not yet been assigned to this brand. See the Box

Bicycle Playing Cards, 1st edition, printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885
Bicycle Playing Cards, 1st edition, printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885 Bicycle Playing Cards, 1st edition, printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885

Above: first edition of Bicycle playing cards, including a “Best Bower”, printed by Russell & Morgan Printing Co., Cincinnati, 1885. You will notice that the box reads Russell & Morgan Co. even though the Ace of Spades reads Russell & Morgan Printing Co..

REFERENCES

Dawson, Tom & Judy: The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, U.S. Games Systems Inc., 2000

NOTE on the “Best Bower”: The game of Euchre is played with a 32 card deck running from 7 through Ace. A trump suit is involved in each hand and in the suit that is trump, the ranking is: Jack of Trump, (highest card), Jack of the other suit of the same color next highest card, followed by Ace, King, Queen, 10, 9, 8 and 7. The Jack of trumps is called the ”Right Bower’ and the Jack in the suit of the same color is called the “Left Bower”. In one version of the game, a Joker is added to the deck and is the highest trump card, ranking ahead of the “Right Bower”. From older decks, not a Joker but a “Best Bower” was included and held the highest rank. In a related German game, the Jacks are called “Bauers” so it would seem apparent as to where the word “Bower” came from. The word “Joker” was a corruption of the word “Eucher”, the game that in some versions requires an extra card, that extra card now having devolved from a Euchre card to a Joker card.

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By Rod Starling

Member since January 09, 2013

Rod Starling was one of the founding members of the 52 Plus Joker card collectors club. He authored many articles for the club's quarterly newsletter, Clear the Decks. His collection encompasses both foreign and American decks. Rod also authored a book titled The Art and Pleasures of Playing Cards.


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