In or about 1890, something like a dozen different editions of playing cards with varying back designs were published advertising “Hard-A-Port Cut Plug” and/or “Trumps Long Cut” chewing tobacco. They were originally published by Moore & Calvi, and then by MacLin and Zimmer and Maclin-Zimmer-McGill. Individual cards were inserted in or included with packages of the chewing tobacco involved.
This marketing phenomenon, and “Hard-A-Port’s” place in it, are described by the World of Playing Cards website as follows:
“Collectible insert cards were a marketing innovation which started in the nineteenth century. Most of us will be familiar with these from our own childhood. Subjects varied from theatre or cinema stars and actors or statesmen, to animals, butterflies or birds, aircraft, garden flowers or playing cards. Cards were included inside tobacco products, chewing gum, tea, chocolate, match boxes, magazines, etc. In some cases they were not necessarily aimed at children but were aimed at the collecting urge in the average person.
“The ‘Hard-a-Port Cut Plug’ series depicts actresses with angelic faces dressed for the pantomime or dance hall. The costumes mostly have a playing card theme, and the court cards wear crowns or hold swords or other symbols of office. The Aces and numeral cards have the suit symbols superimposed over the costumes. Plug tobacco is a form of loose leaf tobacco made for chewing. Chewing tobacco was the most prevalent form of tobacco used in the United States until it was overtaken by cigarette smoking in the early 20th century.”
Listed here is an excellent, complete set of the “Hard-A-Port” cards shown in the Dawon/Hochman Encyclopedia as I19, and I believe that they were published by Maclin-Zimmer-McGill.
The deck has 52 suited cards, plus 1 Joker. The cards are large, measuring 97mm x 58mm. They are on thick, sturdy stock. There is no box.
The cards are in remarkably good condition, still crisp and clean, but the deck is not perfect. There are 4 cards with creases and there is 1 with a small pencil mark. These 5 cards are pictured separately; the picture with 5 cards in it shows them. Notwithstanding the issues with these 5 cards, however, the deck is a superb example of the much admired and coveted "Hard-A-Port" cards.
Reference: Dawson, The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards, p.213, I19
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Maclin-Zimmer-McGill “Hard-A-Port” Tobacco Insert Playing Cards, c.1890