Mint, sealed deck of Congress playing cards featuring a beautiful portrait of Virginia Dare. It is possible that this is an advertising deck for a Virginia Dare product – wine or vanilla extract – but it seems more likely to me that it celebrates Virginia Dare herself. It has the 1 pack tax stamp, and so it can be reliably dated from 1940-1965. I have dated it c.1940s because of the gold gilt on the edges of the cards, but the date could be later in the tax stamp period.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Virginia Dare:
“Virginia Dare (born August 18, 1587, date of death unknown) was the first white child born in the Americas to English parents, Eleanor (or Ellinor/Elyonor) and Ananias Dare. She was born into the short-lived Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina, USA. What became of Virginia and the other colonists has become an enduring mystery. The fact of her birth is known because the leader of the colony, Eleanor Dare's grandfather, John White, returned to England to seek assistance for the colony. When White returned three years later, the colonists were gone.
“During the past four hundred years, Virginia Dare has become a prominent figure in American myth and folklore, symbolizing different things to different groups of people. She has been featured as a main character in books, poems, songs, comic books, television programs and films. Her name has been used to sell different types of products from vanilla products to wine and spirits. Many places in North Carolina and elsewhere in the Southern United States have been named in her honor.”
As noted, Virginia Dare’s name was used to sell products – including one of the earliest wines made in America. There is now a Virginia Dare extract company in Brooklyn, and at its website this historical information appears:
“In 1587, an expedition organized by Sir Walter Raleigh established an English colony on the island of Roanoke, off the coast of present-day North Carolina. On August 18 of that year, the first English child was born on American soil. Named Virginia, her mother was Eleanor Dare, the daughter of John White, governor of the colony.
“Before long, Governor White was forced to leave for England to secure much-needed supplies. When he arrived, he found the country to be at war, threatened by the Spanish Armada. In need of his expertise, Queen Elizabeth extended his stay and it was not until 1590, three years later, that he was again able to set sail for Roanoke with supplies for the little colony.
“Upon his return, he found that the settlement had vanished... and it came to be known in history as Sir Walter Raleigh's ‘Lost Colony.’
“Later, Native American legend told of a beautiful young woman, Virginia Dare, who was mistaken for a white doe, and shot through the heart with a silver arrow from a hunter's bow.
“The name Virginia Dare came to symbolize wholesomeness and purity, and when Garrett & Company was founded in the region in 1835, the name was adopted as a brand for its wine produced from the native Scuppernong grape.
“With the institution of Prohibition in 1919, Garrett & Company was required to reduce the alcohol content of its wine. It was then that they decided to utilize their uncommonly-fine alcohol in the manufacture of flavoring extracts of the best possible quality. Dr. Bernard H. Smith, a noted flavor chemist, was charged with establishing this line of flavors that would carry the name Virginia Dare. With time, the company's flavoring extract business flourished, and in 1923 the Virginia Dare Extract Company was incorporated. Since then, its record has been one of constant growth and leadership.”
Again, there is nothing on the Congress Joker visible through the wrapper to suggest that this is an advertising deck, and I am inclined to think it is not. Presumably the deck has 52 cards, plus 2 Jokers. The cards are bridge size, measuring 89mm x 58mm, with gold gilt around. There is no box.
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