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Fort Laramie Replica Playing Cards


Card playing was perhaps the most common off-duty recreational activity of the frontier soldier. All forms of gambling were illegal in the Army, however, “low-stake” barracks games were frequently held and were usually not rigidly policed by Army officers. Soldiers often played for small change, tobacco, and clothing items such as socks, drawers, and trousers.

Occasionally, higher stake games were run by semi-professional gamblers, known as “Boss Gamblers” or “Poker Sharks." According to General Reynolds, J. Burt, who lived at Fort Laramie as a boy, such games were held “in an obscure room in the back of the post trader’s store or in an off-the-beat, empty warehouse where officers were not likely to look in.” The most popular games included three card monte, seven-up, high-low-jack, honest john, black jack; and the most popular of all, stud horse and draw poker.

This reproduction deck of cards was patterned after an original mid-1800s deck from the museum collection at Fort Laramie National Historic Site. The design is simple and lacks the index (the number and suit sign on the corners) found on modern playing cards. The index is a relatively new addition to playing cards that was first introduced in 1864 and didn’t become popular until the late 1870s.

The ace of spades traditionally features an ornate design and is regarded as the insignia card of the deck. In 17th century England, King James 1st imposed a tax on playing cards and by law, manufacturers could not print their own ace of spades. In fact, forging an ace was a capital offense. A hard-to-forge “duty ace” was printed by the government and was proof of payment of the tax. In 1862, the tax was reduced to three pence and charged on officially printed tax wrappers, placed around the decks. This allowed card manufacturers the freedom to choose their own ace of spades design, but most manufacturers continued to print an ornate ace of spades, a tradition which continues to this day.

The use of a joker in games is an American invention, created in the mid-19th century, so this deck would not have contained them. We’ve added cards that can be used as jokers, if you choose to play games that involve their use.

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  • Model: 3064
  • Shipping Weight: 0.4lbs
  • 949 Units in Stock

This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 01 February, 2012.

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