In 1865, a U.S. company by the name of A.B. Swift obtained a patent in the United States for “The Game of Bézique Complete.” The Game consisted of 2 scorers that are unique to Swift and 4 decks of cards described by Swift in the underside to the lid of the game’s box as “A. Dougherty’s best Double Head, Plate Ace Euchre packs.” A few years later Swift would be bought up by the entity that ultimately came to be known as Selchow & Righter – an acquisition that is primarily remembered today because Swift also had the rights to Parcheesi, the game that would put S&R on the map.
For sale here is this 1865 Swift bézique set. It contains the 2 Swift scorers and what are almost certainly the 4 decks of Dougherty cards, along with a paper insert that announces the game and contains rules/instructions. The Ace of Spades is very simple, and the court cards have much more in common with the Berlin pattern made by German card makers in the 19th century than they do with the standard English/International pattern. These court cards are mentioned in the Dawson/Hochman Encyclopedia, but as cards by New York Consolidated Playing Card Co. (Dawson, The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, p. 52, NY26). The Encyclopedia shows a colorful Ace of Spades for these cards, but notes: "Other examples of this exact deck, but with an anonymous Ace of Spades, have been discovered." This is obviously one of the decks with an anonymous Ace, and it is interesting that Dougherty and NYCC -- competing card makers -- apparently published decks with the same court cards. It suggests that the cards were made in Germany and imported by both companies. According to Wikipedia, euchre is thought to have been brought to the U.S. by early German settlers in Pennsylvania, and this may explain the German look of the cards.
It should be mentioned that the complete quote on the underside of the lid reads as follows: "Please observe the cards in this box are A. Dougherty's best Double Head, Plate Ace, Euchre packs. Any other cards of a cheaper quality purchased in this box are not furnished by the publisher." I have not been able to find anything in the literature or at the World Web Playing Card Museum website showing Euchre cards of any kind, or for that matter, Bezique cards of any kind, made by Dougherty, and none with this German pattern. I am assuming that these cards are the ones described by Swift, but I suppose it is conceivable -- however unlikely -- that they are NYCC cards that were substituted.
Each deck is complete at 32 cards. The cards measure 90mm x 60mm, with square corners and no indices. The cards, markers and instructions are housed in the original box. The markers are cardboard and measure 105mm on the vertical dimension and 95mm on the horizontal, with metal arrows.
The cards are in very good, perhaps even excellent, used condition, except for 3 cards (separately pictured), each of which has a “cut” (not a tear, but a cut, as with a razor or sharp knife). The instructions have a circular brown stain (like coffee), but are otherwise in excellent condition given the age of the set, and the markers are in excellent condition, but with heavy tarnish to the metal arrows. The box is in no better than good condition, with significant wear and missing the front of the top/lid.
There is another bezique set for sale in this shop with A.B. Swift scorers and Dougherty “Excelsior” cards (T00001063), probably sold by Selchow & Righter after the acquisition.
Reference: Petrik, “The House That Parcheesi Built: Selchow & Righter Company,” The Business History Review, Vol. 60, No. 3, Autumn 1986
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