Civil War playing cards

American Card Company, Union Cards, New York City, 1862.
52 lithographed playing cards, each 3.5"h x 2.5"w, printed in blue and red on recto and blue on verso. Face of one card bearing note "Do you know what is the Trump" in ink.

A complete set of Civil War period playing cards, employing eagle, star, shield, and flag artwork in lieu of the more traditional suits. The Jack and King are represented by officers and the Queen by Lady Liberty.

“[The] American Card Company was operated by Benjamin W. Hitchcock, owner of a music and publishing business at 14 Chambers St., New York. The business consisted of sheet music, books, musical instruments, printing presses, and type. The time frame that Hitchcock printed playing cards is questionable, but assumed to be between 1862 and 1864 based upon their boxes and dates found on tax stamps. The ace of eagles clearly states that the American Card Company had offices at 14 Chambers St. and 165 William St. in New York City.

“Three versions of the Union Cards were made especially for Americans. This was conveyed through the following message on the Union Cards box [sadly not present with this deck], ‘THE AMERICAN CARD CO. Confident that the introduction of NATIONAL EMBLEMS in place of Foreign, in PLAYING CARDS, will be hailed with delight by the American People, take pleasure in presenting the UNION PLAYING CARDS. As the first and only Genuine American Cards ever produced, in the fullest confidence that the time is not far distant when they will be the leading Card in American market. Explanation. The Union Cards are calculated to play all the Games for which the old style of Playing Cards are used. The suits are EAGLES, SHIELDS, STARS, and FLAGS, GODDESS OF LIBERTY in place of Queen, COLONEL for King, MAJOR for Jack. In playing with these Cards, they are to be called by the names the emblems represent, and as the Emblems are as familiar as household words, everywhere among the American people, they can be used as readily the first occasion as Cards bearing Foreign emblems.” (Kristin Patterson, It’s A Wrap! U.S. Revenue Stamps Used on Playing Cards, 1862-1883, p. 21)


Set of cards complete, with some minor soiling and staining, but still rigid. Box not present.