Card deck:Union Cards

American Card Co.1902-1915?

The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play

American crises often inspire the creation of American symbols. The American Card Company had such an inspiration when it manufactured these cards as a patriotic tribute to Union soldiers during the Civil War (1861-1865). What distinguishes this deck is its attempt to replace the standard suits. No longer content to maintain the French tradition of hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds, the American Card Company offered eagles, shields, stars, and flags instead. "Nationality," the box boldly asserts, is "Everything." In spite of the company's assurance that "National Emblems" would inevitably replace foreign ones, the popularity of these cards ended with the Civil War; Americans never adapted to the newly introduced symbols. The poor response didn't discourage others from trying the same thing, however. Several other card companies have tried to replace the standard European symbols with homegrown varieties, always in times of war and national crisis. Never gaining much popular appeal, such card decks have remained novelty items.

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