Elsewhere on OnlineCasinoGround we already wrote that the origin and many other facts about playing cards are unknown. At least historians disagree. More is being documented in the West from the 17th century. This makes it easier to follow a historical track on many subjects.
The design of playing cards has already undergone several changes in the 17th century. But they are hardly worth mentioning. Although of course you can't say that to a collector of playing cards.
An impressive change, at least we think so, is the introduction of the "double ends". And that is one of the inventions that, by Americans, is attributed to Samuel Hart. Well, invention …
With playing cards, the cards (gentleman, wife and farmer) were always upright. At the top left or right, the designation of the set was placed (clover, hearts, diamonds or spades). That of course caused problems when playing. After handing out some cards were upside down. He turned the player around. But then the opponent immediately knew that you had a picture and maybe how much.
Players have recognized the problem for a long time. You can therefore hardly imagine that it took so long for someone to come up with the idea of designing the cards differently. But was that Samuel Hart, the legend in the history of the American playing card industry?
Belgium and England
No. Card makers often made the sets of cards in very small quantities. It is therefore likely that sets with double ends were already in circulation. So who invented it is unclear. But the company of map maker Peter Anton Keusters from Brussels made the oldest known set around 1775.
And Edmund Ludlow designed the first English card game with double ends. Thomas Wheeler printed that set around 1805. Samuel Hart was born in 1818; too late to be ahead of Keusters or Ludlow.
Keusters and Ludlow / Wheeler, however, had a problem. The Keusters game was rather rough, so less beautiful than other games that were already in circulation. It was therefore not well received in the game world. And it took years for his game to be accepted.
Ludlow designed a game that was very different from the usual designs. It was not just about the double ends. For example, he also changed the design of the symbol of diamonds, used too modern colors for that time and made completely different aces than people were used to. He discovered that card players are conservative. They simply did not want to risk being mistaken in the cards.
It therefore took more than 50 years for double-ended cards to be accepted in Europe. They were already introduced in America at that time. Card games were also made in small quantities there. It was Samuel Hart who first brought double-ended cards to the market in large numbers.
Samuel Hart owes his fame to other novelties in the card game. In doing so, let's not invent the word. He has in any case received the credits for the introduction of the joker.
German and Dutch settlers took the game Euchre (overpower) to America. The game was not immediately enthusiastically received there. The farmer is the highest trump card at Euchre. This is called the "right bower". The farmer of the same color as the designated trump card is called the "left bower".
American card players started using a blank card at Euchre, which they called the "best bower." Game card manufacturer Samuel Hart found such a blank card ridiculous. That is why he came around 1860 with a card game in which he recorded a signed "best bower".
From that moment on the extra card conquered the world of playing cards. Thirty years later, each card manufacturer included an extra card with an image in the pack of cards. Samuel Hart made a fairly neutral image. However, the card soon got the image of a fool.
In England, such a joker is called a jester and the translation of the word joke is joke. At the end of the 17th century the joker was already called joker. When the "best bower" cards came on the market at the end of the 19th century with the image of a jester, the card was called a joker.
In the Netherlands we took over. In dictionaries around that time, Joker states that it is a surplus (surplus) card. The dictionaries are still silent about the relationship with the joker.
Round corners, satin layer and indexes / squeezers
Americans attribute three other adjustments to Samuel Hart: the round corners, a satin layer and the indexes / squeezers. It is more likely that he came up with it together with others. He has since worked closely with other map makers, mainly his relatives.
Cards were rectangular. The advantage was that the printer could easily cut it. But the sharp angles that you keep with that wear out faster and such a wear mark could reveal the value of the card. Samuel Hart was once again the first to bring large round playing cards to the market. Moreover, he applied a satin layer. This made the card more robust and easier to read because of the gloss.
Samuel Hart also released cards called "squeezers." The value of the card was small in the corners of each card, as an index. Players were able to place the cards even closer, with the corners, against each other.
The Hart family
According to some sources, Samuel Hart had Dutch ancestors. But that is unlikely. You can easily trace Samuel's family tree back to 1172. Then Stephen Harte is born in England. He is the first Hart (e) in a long line of Englishmen. In 1652 the great-grandfather John Hart emigrated to America.
Samuel Hart is born in Philadelphia in 1818. Almost all of his family members are manufacturers. In 1832 his uncle Lewis Cohen starts a paper shop. A year later he will also be producing playing cards there. Samuel works with various family members for a while and in 1844 starts his first own paper shop in Philadelphia. Five years later, he has several stores, including some in New York.
Name lives on
Shortly after 1850, he launched the "Mogul" and "Steamboat" card game brands. For a long time, they have been the most popular card games among American players. A few years later Samuel starts working with his cousins, sons of Lewis Cohen. They jointly set up the New York Consolidated Card Company.
The aforementioned innovations are brought to market by that company. Samuel's last name or initials are almost always on the package because of his fame. Until long after his death in 1880.