Extraordinary set of the celebrated cards made by Winters Art Litho Co. for the Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Columbian Exposition was a huge and very significant event, described as follows at the Wikipedia website:
"The World's Columbian Exposition (the official shortened name for the World's Fair: Columbian Exposition, also known as The Chicago World's Fair) was a World's Fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World in 1492. The iconic centerpiece of the Fair, the large water pool, represented the long voyage Columbus took to the New World. Chicago bested New York City; Washington, D.C.; and St. Louis for the honor of hosting the fair. The fair was an influential social and cultural event. The fair had a profound effect on architecture, sanitation, the arts, Chicago's self-image, and American industrial optimism. The Chicago Columbian Exposition was, in large part, designed by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted. It was the prototype of what Burnham and his colleagues thought a city should be. It was designed to follow Beaux Arts principles of design, namely French neoclassical architecture principles based on symmetry, balance, and splendor.
"The exposition covered more than 600 acres (2.4 km2), featuring nearly 200 new (but purposely temporary) buildings of predominantly neoclassical architecture, canals and lagoons, and people and cultures from 46 countries. More than 27 million people attended the exposition during its six-month run. Its scale and grandeur far exceeded the other world fairs, and it became a symbol of the emerging American Exceptionalism, much in the same way that the Great Exhibition became a symbol of the Victorian era United Kingdom.
"Dedication ceremonies for the fair were held on October 21, 1892, but the fairgrounds were not actually opened to the public until May 1, 1893. The fair continued until October 30, 1893. In addition to recognizing the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the New World by Europeans, the fair also served to show the world that Chicago had risen from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire, which had destroyed much of the city in 1871. On October 9, 1893, the day designated as Chicago Day, the fair set a world record for outdoor event attendance, drawing 716,881 people to the fair."
Several sets of similar cards were made to commemorate the Exposition. This set is the one shown in the Dawson/Hochman Encyclopedia as SX8, and includes the extra King of Hearts referenced as SX9. The backs depict the 3 ships of Columbus in pink. The faces of the suited cards have illustrations – not photographs, but rather original artwork – of some of the 200 buildings noted in the Wikipedia description. The same illustration has been used for the same value court card in each suit: i.e., 4 Kings the same, 4 Queens the same, 4 Jacks the same; however, the Aces and pip cards (2 through 10) have different illustrations on each one. The Joker shows Uncle Sam, flanked by flags of participating nations, including the flag of the United States. The court cards of this set, Dawson/Hochman SX8, have illustrations in the upper right and bottom left corners: the Kings show George Davis, the President of the Exposition; the Queens show Mrs. Potter Palmer, wife of a then prominent Chicago businessman; and the Jacks show Christopher Columbus.
The deck has 52 cards, plus the Uncle Sam Joker, plus the extra King of Hearts noted above that advertises the Exposition; that is, this extra King of Hearts has a different back, one with advertising for Winters and the Exposition. The cards are wide, measuring 88mm x 62mm, with beautiful gold gilt around. The cards came to me in the inner portion of a telescope box, but I do not think it is original to the cards. It seems more accurate to say that the cards have no box.
The cards are in superb condition, with the gold gilt edges bright and almost completely intact. The cards have obviously been handled, but are otherwise without issues.
Reference: Dawson, The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, p.248, SX8, SX9; Fournier, Playing Cards, North America 61
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