The Game of Nations, a scarce pack of chromolithographic playing cards by the McLoughlin Bros.

THE GAME OF NATIONS. New York: McLoughlin Bros., [1876.]
52 chromolithographic playing cards, each 3 5/8”h x 2 7/16”w. Accompanied by booklet of instructions (12pp) and housed in telescoping cardboard case with pasted-on label printed in colors. Cards with occasional minor staining, booklet with corners and spine worn, box somewhat scuffed, but complete and in very good condition overall.

A scarce pack of chromolithographic playing cards issued in 1876 by the McLoughlin Bros. Complete with all cards, accompanied by the fragile booklet of instructions, housed in the original telescoping case, and in very nice condition for a game intended for hard use by young people.

The pack of 52 cards is

“divided into four suits representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America. These are in fact four continents rather than nations, in keeping with other ‘Four Continent’ or Empire packs published around this time. Each ‘nation’ has 13 cards, with designs appropriate to the geographical region featured in that suit, running 2 → 10, Child, Woman, Man and Map (highest card). The court cards depict caricatures of people wearing traditional costumes from each of the four ‘nations’ in somewhat stereotyped style by today’s standards.” (Simon Wintle, “Game of Nations”, at

NB: This description was posted in 2016, eons ago in the culture wars, but even by the standards of five years ago the caricatures are offensive, both individually and in aggregate.

The cards are accompanied by a small and fragile (and hence rare) booklet with instructions for four “old games with new faces”, including “Game of Nations”, “Game of Catch-All”, “Game of Monkey” and “Follow Leader”.

The American Antiquarian Society dates Game of Nations to 1876, presumably on the basis of McLoughlin Bros. advertisements or catalogs. The company reissued the pack in 1898 with new designs, which may be viewed here.

McLoughlin Bros.
The game was produced by the New York City-based McLoughlin Bros. The firm had its roots in Elton & Co., a partnership of John McLoughlin, Sr. and engraver and printed Robert H. Elton. John McLoughlin, Jr. (1827-1905) learned his trade working for his father and took over the firm in 1850/51, when the older men retired. McLoughlin began to publish picture books, and in 1855 he brought in his brother Edmund McLoughlin (1833/4-1889) as a partner, though the firm name “McLoughlin Bros.” does not appear in directories until 1858.

The firm was a pioneer in the use of color printing in children’s books, games, puzzles, and toys and experimented with color-reproduction processes until arriving at chromolithography. The firm seems to have drifted after the death of John McLoughin, Jr., and in 1920 it was purchased by Milton Bradley and its Brooklyn factory closed, though the brand remained alive until the 1970s. The firm’s output is sufficiently significant to American printing history that the American Antiquarian Society has built a major collection more than 1700 examples of McLoughlin Bros. work, much of which was produced well after the Society’s collecting limit of 1876.

Provenance and references
OCLC 1151002212 (American Antiquarian Society, complete with all cards) and 1150966780 (a 2nd set at the American Antiquarian Society, with only 36 cards). Neither listing mentions the booklet of instructions. Background on the McLoughlin Bros. from Laura Wasowicz, “McLoughlin Bros. Collection” on the web site of the American Antiquarian Society.