Smithsonian antique playing cards

By Neal - 5/09/2020

w It’s no secret we created our online solitaire game because we love both card games and card designs.

Not long ago, we had come across some Anheuser Busch card designs from 1900 kept at Columbia University. The cards were rich in history, and reflected a time of American Imperialism. At the time, the United States took over Gaum, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, of which the first two territories are still part of the United States to this day. The cards show battleships which is a flex of America’s spreading strength during that time.

Recently we stumbled across a blog post on the Smithsonian website. Not surprisingly, they have some great books on the history of playing cards. The books explain that cards and card games originated from the East and Arabic regions. They were spread to the West, or modern Europe, during the Crusades. For example, the first evidence of cards in Spain are tied to Moorish invaders, and the presence of cards in England are tied to the Second Crusade that took place at the end of the 13th Century.

The Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt design museum, which has one of the most impressive design collections in the world with items dating back to 1100 BC, has hundreds of playing cards spanning from the 18th to the 20th century. When we viewed some of the digital copies, we had to turn it into a solitaire game!

In the game, you'll see some of the first references of different suits and colors we use today. You’ll see elegant designs of kings and queens, consistent with the artwork of the 18th and 19th century, reflecting the monarchical society of Europe. If you pay attention, you’ll even get a sense of the type of clothing worn at the time. Playing the game is truly a blast from the past. We hope you enjoy, and good luck!