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Russell Mfg. Co. “State Mutual Fun-Full Thrift” Card Game, State Mutual Life Ins. Co., Illustrations of U.S. Presidents, c.1937
Interesting and rare card game made by Russell Mfg. Co. of Leicester, Mass. (not Russell Playing Card Co.) for State Mutual Insurance Company – a "Fun-Full Thrift Game" comparable to "Old Maid" – in order to sell insurance and in particular insurance offered by State Mutual. The card game features an illustration on every card including illustrations of 6 U.S. Presidents extolling the virtues of insurance.
The Games Catalogue published in 1998 by what was then the American Game Collectors Association (now the Association of Game & Puzzle Collectors) dates the game to 1937, and that date makes considerable sense in light of the history of State Mutual. An article on Wikipedia describes the formation of the company:
"In 1937, six prominent figures of Rome [Georgia] made a plan to provide a source of employment and income for the people of Rome during the depression. 113 citizens of Rome were granted temporary licenses to act as insurance agents. Titled the "Million Dollar Campaign," their goal was to sell $1,000,000 worth of insurance policies in order to save a company and the jobs held there. In three weeks, the 113 new agents sold $1,431,000 of new life insurance policies. These new policies and those that were managed by the state insurance commissioner were combined to form State Mutual Insurance Company."
It seems logical that this set of cards would be part of that campaign.
Today, it is unclear whether a company can use the name and likeness of a sitting or former U.S. President to sell product, and the recent use of Pres. Obama's likeness on a Times Square billboard to sell a type of jacket brought the debate on the subject into sharp focus. But in the first half of the 20th century it was apparently somewhat common – regardless of the legalities – and if this card game was part of a depression-era effort to save a company threatened with extinction, it would be understandable if the use of the Presidents to sell insurance policies was authorized or at least tolerated. That said, it still seems unusual to see 6 U.S. Presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt, the sitting President, selling insurance.
The card game has 15 pairs of cards, including the 6 U.S. President cards, plus a single "Mr. Uninsurable" card (akin to an "Old Maid" card), plus a card with instructions for playing the game. The backs show the State Mutual building. The cards are slightly small and wide, measuring 86mm x 63mm, and come in the original box.
The cards are in excellent condition, lightly used if at all. The box is also in excellent condition, but has the name of an insurance agent stamped on the back.
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