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1103 UWRT

Nathan Kush

Inquiry Topic:
What is the history of playing cards and what are their uses throughout history?
My Interest/Prior Knowledge:
I am interested in this topic because I use playing cards almost daily. As a magician, I
have used playing cards for many different tricks. Despite my constant usage of playing cards, I
have never really put much consideration into how they are made or who first invented them.
Since I use playing cards so often, I feel as though I should know far more about them than an
average person. I think this because it might benefit me in the creation of card tricks and the
topic is interesting on its own. I only know very basic information such as the start of mass
production of playing cards by the

United States Playing Card

Company (USPCC) was in 1885.

This in the broad view of history

is within the more recent years.

Additionally, I know that playing

cards first originated in China.

This is due to the Chinese

invention of modern paper. There

is also a lot of mystery

surrounding the origin of playing

cards. Who invented them

and why? The Catholic Church went so far as to say that playing cards were invented by the
devil and should be avoided. Their reasoning was that cards lead to gambling. This also brings
up the question of what are the uses of playing cards. I find that these questions are very
interesting and should be answered.

1103 UWRT
Nathan Kush

Preliminary Research:
I have gone to Atkins Library to research my topic. From there, I found more books than
I expected on the subject of playing cards. I found three books that tied in well to my inquiry
question. One book is titled Playing Cards: History of the Pack and an explanation of its many
secrets by W. Gurney Benham.

It describes thedifferences in

playing cards through the past

centuries and how playing card

designs vary between countries

around the world. Another is

titled A History of Playing Cards

and a Bibliography of Cards and

Gaming by Catherine Perry

Hargrave. This book gives the

history of playing cards from the

time of their invention into

modern times. Lastly, I found The Oxford Guide to Cards Games by David Parlett. It is not a
Hoyle or a book explaining the rules of many card games. Instead, it covers why cards are used
in gaming and the subtle mysteries held within a decks design. I also own a few books containing
information about the rules for card games and a few books on the uses of playing cards for
I was truly amazed at how much information I found on my topic to use in my paper.
Additional Questions to Answer:
1. Who invented the first deck of playing cards?
2. How have playing cards evolved since their creation?
3. Why do playing cards vary by regions around the world?
4. What are the common/uncommon uses for playing cards?
5. Why are there fifty-two cards and two jokers in a standard American deck?

1103 UWRT
Nathan Kush

6. What are they called around the world and how are they different in meaning?
7. How have their uses changed over time?
8. How many documented card games exist?
9. Why were they invented?
10. What is the optimal material to use in making playing cards?
11. Why do we have four suits and why spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds?
12. When did playing cards originate?
13. When did card magic come to fruition?
14. Why is there a back design?
15. When did back designs become common?
16. How have playing cards influenced the course of history?
17. Why are there Kings, Queens, and Jacks as court cards?
18. Is there a deck with a fifth suit?
19. Can playing cards include values over ten? (elevens, twelves, thirteens)
20. How are playing cards made today as compared to the earlier decks?