Thursday, July 20, 2017

Holding Even More Good Bicycle Cards

Elsewhere, we have written about the United States Playing Card Company's promotional campaign for Bicycle cards, often employing the catch phrase "When You Play with Bicycle, You Hold Good Cards."  The campaign proved a boon for vaudeville-era magicians seeking free or subsidized promotion for their acts, and more indirectly, to modern-day collectors of these pasteboards.  Well, our good friend Jay Hunter, inspired by this historical effort, assembled this stunning array of such cards, representing a broad assembly of Bicycle card backs.

And, another buddy, Lee Asher, offered his considerable knowledge to identify the backs designs. According to Lee, they are as follows:

ROW 1 (Left to Right) - Lotus Back, Racer Back, Cyclist No. 2 Back

ROW 2 (Left to Right) - All Wheel Back, Acorn Back, Cupid Back

ROW 3 (Left to Right) - Sprocket No. 2 Back, Wheel No. 2 Back, New Fan Back.

Additionally, Lee advises, several of the backs are uncommon specimens, in particular the Cyclist No. 2 and the Sprocket No. 2.

Of course, the fronts are equally engaging, if not as colorful, depicting advertisements from nine different magicians, none of which have yet been covered here at Propelled Pasteboards.  You can see the faces below.  While the individual performers may be worthy of further comment (by way of example, I have assembled several other pieces and some information about De Jeu, Max Terhune and Professor Lindhorst), several of these are little-known performers about whom no information may exist other than that depicted on these fine collectibles.

However, these images are worthy of further examination.   The assemblage tells us a little more about the Bicycle promotional campaign, not only by the backs depicted, but also the ad copy on the faces.  Most of them bear some variation of the "hold good cards" theme.  Yet take a look at the detailed description on the Harry Kane card, which is very different than that usually encountered on these pieces.  Moreover, the Bicycle promotional text runs vertically along the side of the Hiestand card, while the normal positioning of this text is usually horizontally along the top of the card.  Finally, the Max Terhune card features a more specific endorsement relating to his use of Steamboat and Bicycle cards, along with the standard text.  Each of these differences are likely clues to the date the cards were printed, and may provide further insights.

Many thanks to Jay for sharing this wonderful assortment with us.

And before leaving the world of Bicycle throwing cards, here's an image of the 1905 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents in which USPCC first registered the "hold good cards" slogan, along with some others:

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