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Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs

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Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« on: January 23, 2014, 06:56:14 AM »
 

plainbacks

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HI This is my first go at a post - fingers crossed etc.
I have had a go at illustrating 10 really early US Makers - roughly from 1805 to 1850
The rest is in the file attachment - pictures with notes - and its meant to be self explanatory...



TEN EARLY AMERICANS

These are the oldest American manufacturers represented in the Plainbacks collection.

The brief notes reflect extensive research in Gene Hochman's original Hochman Encyclopedia and in the latest version by Tom and Judy Dawson.

I have noted the Hochman type for each deck and much information will be found in the related Encyclopedia entry.

As ever, dates are best guesses. The code after the name is the reference on Plainbacks, where more of the cards are shown.

1805? John Casenave, 174
A lovely early American deck. John Cazenave of New York is listed among the "unknown makers" in Gene Hochman's original encyclopedia - that is, although his survived, no examples were known. However, a Casenave wrapper was a later discovered by Hochman and it showed an Ace of Spades, enabling this maker's cards to be identified. See Hochman type U33. Although very early, the style would become typical of the early US makers.



1816 J Y Humphreys, 168
Cards of great character! Humphreys was from Philadelphia, and produced a number of set of different designs in the period up to 1825. See U29.



1820 Thomas Crehore I3
Thomas Crehor(e) was from Dorchester Mass, and created another style that was set to become an American standard - perhaps because they are very clear and bold designs. The Type is U3.



1830 Caleb Bartlett, I77
Bartlett of New York ha a design similar to Crehore above. Before Independence cards would have been imported from England ... the generic American Manufacturer label on the Ace was commonly used by early American makers to show they are not imports. The Hochman type is U8.



1835 Geo. Cook, I90
Another pack looking like Crehore. Again the American Manufacturer label is used, and here note Excelsior on the Ace of Spades which A. Dougherty also used on early cards. Cook is not well known and does not appear in the Hochman.



1840 L.I Cohen I2
This is an early example by Cohen - the business that was destined to become the New York Consolidated Card Co. These cards resemble Casenave above. Type is NY4.



1840 Nathaniel Ford I47
The Ford family are one of America's oldest makers and this is Hochman type U1. Based in Milton, Mass. the family made cards from perhaps 1811 to 1860. A moving yellow post-it note by a previous owner, says: Benj. Libby 24th Maine. Cards found with his effects.



1840 Emporium I56
This is one of the first manufacturers to adopt a brand name (as opposed to just the maker's name). This is a rare maker and little is known about the manufacturer - see U34.



1845 American I61
Another anonymous American Manufacturer Ace, in fact these were early examples by Samuel Hart (later also part of New York Consolidated Card Company). See U14.



1844 Carmichael Jewett & Wales I55
This is a lovely bright deck, similar in style to contemporary English cards by Hunt and their successors Bancks. This could be a copy; perhaps there was a business association ... perhaps the English were exporting in disguise?!

« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 06:12:07 PM by Don Boyer »
 

 

Lee Asher

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HI This is my first go at a post - fingers crossed etc.
I have had a go at illustrating 10 really early US Makers - roughly from 1805 to 1850
The rest is in the file attachment - pictures with notes - and its meant to be self explanatory...

Simply wonderful! Moved to the Source.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 07:28:28 PM by Lee Asher »
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52plusjoker

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Welcome Paul to Discourse. Great to have such an eminent collector on Board [pun intended].

What a great introduction to the early American makers. I'm with Lee - we'll move this post to the Source.

Hope you'll get a chance to introduce yourself in the "Introduce Yourself" board somewhat down the Home page.

Look forward to more pictures and educational information.

Cheers
Tom Dawson
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Josh Blackmon

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I will preface this post by saying I think these cards are amazing. I appreciate their age, history and their rarity and perceive them as beautiful because of these attributes. However I have a nagging question. I look at the design on the ace of spades compared to the drawings of the court cards and can't help but notice they look like the drawings of a child. Has this got something to do with the printing style and if so why is there such a disparity between the courts and the intricately designed Ace of Spades? Were they not concerned with the art as much as they were with the function? I tend to believe the latter.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 10:46:42 AM by Josh Blackmon »
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52plusjoker

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I will preface this post by saying I think these cards are amazing. I appreciate their age, history and their rarity and perceive them as beautiful because of these attributes. However I have a nagging question. I look at the design on the ace of spades compared to the drawings of the court cards and can't help but notice they look like the drawings of a child. Has this got something to do with the printing style and if so why is there such a disparity between the courts and the intricately designed Ace of Spades? Were they not concerned with the art as much as they were with the function? I tend to believe the latter.
My response would be that they were interested in two things - creating a brand and functionality - the same holds true today for the manufacturers; they are only interested in design to sell cards.
All of the cards pictured would have been created by hand carving a wooden plate, inking the plate and running manually through a small press. Then repeat the inking and printing for other colors. Quite labor intensive! The intricacy of cards came with chromlithography in the second half of 19th century.
Tom Dawson
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JacksonRobinson

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I will preface this post by saying I think these cards are amazing. I appreciate their age, history and their rarity and perceive them as beautiful because of these attributes. However I have a nagging question. I look at the design on the ace of spades compared to the drawings of the court cards and can't help but notice they look like the drawings of a child. Has this got something to do with the printing style and if so why is there such a disparity between the courts and the intricately designed Ace of Spades? Were they not concerned with the art as much as they were with the function? I tend to believe the latter.

You also have to realize that different time periods had different forms of visual communication, and what was considered "normal" a great example is Ancient Egypt. When someone says ancient Egypt they automatically think of stick figure hieroglyphics when in reality Egyptians had some realistic paintings that would fit perfectly beside the any Renaissance painting in the Louvre. The Egyptians communication language was completely opposite of ours. The more important a subject matter was the more simplified they made, so you may have the pharaoh looking like a 3rd grade stick figure on a background of a beautifully rendered nature scene.
Jackson Robinson
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plainbacks

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Thanks, it's really good to have an unexpected response relating to the art and culture.    One of the charms of early cards is that they are a craft - hardly art, and some way from manufacturing.  I saw that Tom has described the technology of the times.
The point about the quality of the drawings is well made.  In fact, poor copying, a kind of visual Chinese whispers, meant that the court figures evolved from skilful drawings of real people to the much more abstract patterns we know today. 
 

 

JacksonRobinson

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Thanks, it's really good to have an unexpected response relating to the art and culture.    One of the charms of early cards is that they are a craft - hardly art, and some way from manufacturing.  I saw that Tom has described the technology of the times.
The point about the quality of the drawings is well made.  In fact, poor copying, a kind of visual Chinese whispers, meant that the court figures evolved from skilful drawings of real people to the much more abstract patterns we know today.

The Ironic thing about "early" cards is the majority of their art dwarfs anything that most modern decks offer in terms of quality and craftsmanship. IMO. Most modern decks are just lazy copies of very old designs.
Jackson Robinson
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52plusjoker

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Thanks, it's really good to have an unexpected response relating to the art and culture.    One of the charms of early cards is that they are a craft - hardly art, and some way from manufacturing.  I saw that Tom has described the technology of the times.
The point about the quality of the drawings is well made.  In fact, poor copying, a kind of visual Chinese whispers, meant that the court figures evolved from skilful drawings of real people to the much more abstract patterns we know today.

The Ironic thing about "early" cards is the majority of their art dwarfs anything that most modern decks offer in terms of quality and craftsmanship. IMO. Most modern decks are just lazy copies of very old designs.
Just to help the evolution aspect and look at older design and technique, I show four cards from Bordeaux in France. These cards were hand-made by a skilled artisan in Guienne/Bearne in the decade between 1690 and 1700. The actual process was very similar to that used in the early 1800's in the USA and shown by plainbacks in his post. To me, they are elegant and beautiful! I think Jackson will like them as well.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 08:43:16 PM by 52plusjoker »
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Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2014, 04:55:53 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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Jackson will like any vintage deck he can lay hands on!  I think he's trying to buy out the marketplace!  :))

I got curious about the 1840 Nathaniel Ford deck and did some quick research on Benjamin Libby.  I was able to find two, both from Maine and featured in many family genealogies.  One was from pre-Independence days, the other was born in the late 18th century and lived until 1834.  He was old enough at the time of the War of Independence to have possibly fought, but there was little reason for him to do so, all the way in Maine.  However, I did manage to find a record of him serving in the War of 1812 as part of a Maine volunteer militia.  Is it possible that the deck is older than thought, since he died six years before the date listed as the manufacture date?

http://archives.mainegenealogy.net/2009/11/maine-militia-war-of-1812-lieut-col-j.html
(Capt. H. V. Comston's Company, Lieut. Col. J. Burbank's Regiment, held rank of Private)

http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Libby-792
http://rydergenealogy.com/getperson.php?personID=I14054&tree=ryder1
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Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2014, 10:05:04 AM »
 

52plusjoker

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Jackson will like any vintage deck he can lay hands on!  I think he's trying to buy out the marketplace!  :))

I got curious about the 1840 Nathaniel Ford deck and did some quick research on Benjamin Libby.  I was able to find two, both from Maine and featured in many family genealogies.  One was from pre-Independence days, the other was born in the late 18th century and lived until 1834.  He was old enough at the time of the War of Independence to have possibly fought, but there was little reason for him to do so, all the way in Maine.  However, I did manage to find a record of him serving in the War of 1812 as part of a Maine volunteer militia.  Is it possible that the deck is older than thought, since he died six years before the date listed as the manufacture date?

http://archives.mainegenealogy.net/2009/11/maine-militia-war-of-1812-lieut-col-j.html
(Capt. H. V. Comston's Company, Lieut. Col. J. Burbank's Regiment, held rank of Private)

http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Libby-792
http://rydergenealogy.com/getperson.php?personID=I14054&tree=ryder1
A bit more history about the Foord family [their real name although they used "Ford" on their Aces].
  • Jazaniah Ford produced playing cards from 1793 until 1832.
  • Joseph his brother also made cards from 1811 to 1814.
  • Jazaniah Seth Ford, a son of Jazaniah, made cards after his father's death from 1832 until 1839
  • Nathaniel Ford made decks from 1839 until 1847.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2014, 10:07:17 AM by 52plusjoker »
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Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2014, 01:42:28 AM »
 

Don Boyer

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I was considering the possibility that the deck was older than previously believed, since the person credited with owning the deck died before Nathaniel Ford went into the card-making business.  Any of the other three could have made a deck while Benjamin Libby was alive, with the first Jazaniah Ford being the likeliest candidate as he was in business roughly half of Libby's life if not more.  Joseph was in business only three years, and Jazaniah Seth Ford only three years before Libby's death.

Of course, this all assumes I've identified the correct Benjamin Libby in the first place as the deck's former owner.
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Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2014, 11:41:39 AM »
 

plainbacks

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Sorry I should have read your posts chronologically  :o
 

Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs: JOKERS
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2014, 11:49:39 AM »
 

plainbacks

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As you know America came relatively late into making playing cards.
However, American makers brought in two innovations that we take for granted today.
The first was the corner indices.
The second was the Best Bower, which evolved into the Joker we know now.

This illustration shows six early jokers and a Best Bower.
Because the traditional card faces have a fixed design, the Joker offers the artist a chance to go to town...
 

Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2014, 04:08:06 AM »
 

plainbacks

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Quote
A bit more history about the Foord family [their real name although they used "Ford" on their Aces].
Jazaniah Ford produced playing cards from 1793 until 1832.
Joseph his brother also made cards from 1811 to 1814.
Jazaniah Seth Ford, a son of Jazaniah, made cards after his father's death from 1832 until 1839
Nathaniel Ford made decks from 1839 until 1847.

Wondering how /from where we know the Fo(o)rd family production dates?

A little more about the cards:
The AS clearly says "NATH.L FORD & CO" - this is not very clear in the image as posted.
The cards all have the same simple back design and similar soiling/ heavy wear, which helps confirm they belong together.
I don't know the previous owner (who presumably wrote the note about their origin): I bought these from "Cartorama".
 

Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2014, 04:26:27 PM »
 

Leif

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I can't thank you enough for posting these. I think it is wonderful to see these old courts, to see the resemblance and yet the differences to the old European patterns, and to connect that with resemblance to the modern patterns. Simply marvellous. It makes me want to look further back in history, to find the transition period between the Rouen design and the English. Wouldn't that be cool, to see the development of the cards, The King of Spades, for example, in a long row, from the oldest to the modern times?

Thank you.
 

Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2014, 08:49:25 PM »
 

52plusjoker

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Quote
A bit more history about the Foord family [their real name although they used "Ford" on their Aces].
Jazaniah Ford produced playing cards from 1793 until 1832.
Joseph his brother also made cards from 1811 to 1814.
Jazaniah Seth Ford, a son of Jazaniah, made cards after his father's death from 1832 until 1839
Nathaniel Ford made decks from 1839 until 1847.

Wondering how /from where we know the Fo(o)rd family production dates?

A little more about the cards:
The AS clearly says "NATH.L FORD & CO" - this is not very clear in the image as posted.
The cards all have the same simple back design and similar soiling/ heavy wear, which helps confirm they belong together.
I don't know the previous owner (who presumably wrote the note about their origin): I bought these from "Cartorama".
Ha!
one must read Hochman chapter on early makers for the answer to the Food dates!!!!
Tom Dawson
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Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2014, 06:43:20 AM »
 

plainbacks

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Thank you Leif for the comments

Wouldn't that be cool, to see the development of the cards, The King of Spades, for example, in a long row, from the oldest to the modern times?

Yes I agree,  It would tell a really interesting story!
I'm away right now , but hope to assemble it to post in next few days.
 

Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2014, 12:42:11 PM »
 

plainbacks

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Hi this is my first go at the history.



L-R and top row first
Faucil, France, 16th cent., lovely drawing.
Unknown found with Hewson, around 1680, France or England.
McEvoy, 1765, England.  Design now much cruder.
Hall, 1815, England, this is very standard full length card of the era.
Samuel Hart USA, 1850, quite similar to Hall.
Levy, USA 1865 two ended
Eagle USA 1877 note experimental indexes
Union USA 1875 although old, these are instantly recognisable to modern eyes
 

Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2014, 04:07:27 PM »
 

Leif

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Hi this is my first go at the history.



L-R and top row first
Faucil, France, 16th cent., lovely drawing.
Unknown found with Hewson, around 1680, France or England.
McEvoy, 1765, England.  Design now much cruder.
Hall, 1815, England, this is very standard full length card of the era.
Samuel Hart USA, 1850, quite similar to Hall.
Levy, USA 1865 two ended
Eagle USA 1877 note experimental indexes
Union USA 1875 although old, these are instantly recognisable to modern eyes

Very interesting, especially the sudden decline in craftmanship between the second and third picture. From the elegant Faucil into the almost childish McEvoy. Maybe it has something to do with the Seven Years' War that ended 1763, maybe McEvoy was knowingly depicting the cards crude, to mock the French? Or maybe he was just not as good with the woodcarving tools.
Thank you very much!
 

Re: Early 19th-Century Anglo-American Face Designs
« Reply #20 on: February 04, 2014, 04:25:25 PM »
 

plainbacks

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In the McEvoy 1765 era *all* the English makers look like this.  It hurts to say so but it definitely seems that the English were simply a way behind the French in this kind of printing,