The practice of fortune telling, still popular today, grew out of beliefs in Renaissance magic and folklore. There are many ways to tell a fortune. Tarot card decks appeared as early as the 1400s; gaming was their first purpose. Soon, however, they became associated more with magic and mysticism, and eventually, fortune telling. Standard card decks evolved early too, and while their main purpose has always been gaming, they too are used for fortune telling. Perhaps the countless possibilities of cards in a shuffled deck led to this. Aware of the public fascination for learning about the future, European and American game manufacturers were quick to produce special fortune-telling card games. These were common in the late 19th century and can still be found today.
This 1887 deck was made by McLoughlin Brothers of New York. "Madame Le Normand's Mystic Cards of Fortune" are in fact a fairly good replica of the special, 36-card deck designed by the famous fortune teller Marie Anne Lenormand (1772-1843), of Paris. The bottom of the instruction sheet is "signed" by the "heirs" of Lenormand. Madame Lenormand was by far the most famous fortune teller of Napoleonic-era France; she advised Empress Josephine, among many others. McLoughlin Brothers here attempted to capitalize on her enduring fame or at least lend an exotic name to a set of fortune-telling cards.