USPCC History

Ace of Spades company name time line
1881 - 1885 "Russell, Morgan & Co." or "Russell & Morgan Co."
1886 - 1891 "Russell & Morgan Printing Co."
1891 - 1894 "The United States Printing Co."
1894 - 1925 "The United States Playing Card Co." or "U.S. Playing Card Co., Russell & Morgan Factories"
1926 to date "The United States Playing Card Co."

  • 1867 - Russell, Morgan & Co. is formed by the partnership of A. O. Russell, Robert J. Morgan, James M. Armstrong and John F. Robinson Jr. Located on the first and second stories of a building at 20 College Street in Cincinnati, Ohio, they printed theatrical and circus posters, placards and labels.
  • 1872 - Business had increased so much the company was forced to seek larger quarters, and in November 1872, it moved into a new four-story building on nearby Race Street in downtown Cincinnati.
  • Early 1880 - Mr. Russell proposed to his partners that they embark upon the manufacture of playing cards, an industry monopolized by several East Coast companies. The partners agreed and arrangements were made to add two additional stories to their building, making it six stories high. Many new machines were designed and built expressly for Russell, Morgan & Co.
  • 1881 - On June 28 the first pack of the first brand of playing cards was produced, Tigers #101. This was the least expensive of the five brands which made up the opening line of the playing card branch of the company. The other brands of the opening line, from lowest to highest in quality and price, were Sportsman's #202, Army #303, Navy #303, and Congress #404. 20 employees manufactured 1600 packs per day.
  • 1885 - Russell, Morgan & Co. began printing Bicycle cards, which would become their most popular line. The first back is "Old Fan", very similar to the later "Expert" back, and there would eventually be a total of 82 different bicycle backs.
  • 1891 - Russell, Morgan and Company became The United States Printing Company.
  • 1894 - The playing card business had grown to such proportions that it was separated from the Printing Company, becoming The United States Playing Card Company.
    • USPCC acquires the Standard Playing Card Co. which continues to operate independently until 1930.
    • USPCC acquires Perfection Playing Card Co. and continues to use the name until 1915.
    • USPCC acquires The New York Consolidated Card Co., which functions under that name until 1930. The New York Consolidated Card Company was formed in 1871 by the merging of three earlier firms, Lawrence & Cohen (which had been founded in 1832 by Lewis I. Cohen), Samuel Hart & Co (founded c.1849 by Samuel Hart) and John J. Levy.
  • 1900 - The United States Playing Card Company expanded again, moving from downtown Cincinnati to a newly-built factory in Norwood. Situated on over 30 acres, the facility would eventually accommodate over 600,000 square feet of manufacturing operations.
  • 1907 - USPCC acquires Andrew Dougherty which operates independently until 1930.
  • 1914 - USPCC opens a Canadian manufacturing operation, which becomes the International Playing Card Company in 1933, and continues producing cards until 1961. From 1961 until 1991 they processed sheets printed in Cincinnati into finished decks.
  • 1922 - The radio station WSAI was built within the USPC complex and used to promote the game of bridge by broadcasting bridge lessons. In those days, there was no limitation on the range of radio power and the WSAI transmission was so clear and strong that it could be picked up as far away as New Zealand. WSAI was eventually sold in the 1930's to the Crosley Radio Corporation.
  • 1926 - A Neo-Romanesque bell tower (4-stories high) was built atop the company's 4-story main building entrance. This tower housed a set of 12 carillon bells, ranging in size from 1-1/2 to 5-1/2 feet. This was the first set of chimes built for radio broadcasting, and they were connected electronically to radio station WSAI.
  • 1929 - USPCC acquires the Russell Playing Card Co.
  • 1930 - Consolidated-Dougherty Card Co. Inc. is formed, a division of USPCC. The new company is made up of the New York Consolidated Card Co., Andrew Dougherty, and the Standard Playing Card Co.
  • World War II - the company secretly worked with the U. S. government in fabricating special decks to send as gifts for American prisoners of war in German camps. When these cards were moistened, they peeled apart to reveal sections of a map indicating precise escape routes. Also during the war, USPC provided "spotter" cards, which illustrated the characteristic shapes of tanks, ships and aircraft from the more powerful countries.
  • 1950 - The craze for the South American card game Canasta boosts sales.
  • February, 1966 - The Vietnam war. Two lieutenants of Company "C," Second Battalion, 35th Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, wrote The United States Playing Card Company and requested crates of the ace of spades in bulk. The crates were often marked with "Bicycle Secret Weapon". The cards were used as psychological warfare, deliberately scattered in the jungle and in hostile villages during raids. The ace of spades, while not a symbol of superstitious fear to the NLF (VC), did help the morale of American soldiers. US soldiers and Marines would also stick this card in their helmet band as a sort of anti-peace sign.
  • 1969 - Diamond International buys the USPCC.
  • 1982 - Jessup & Lamont buy the USPCC.
  • 1984 - Museum opens at the Norwood facility displaying company's collection of historical playing cards dating back to the fourteenth century. The collection was started in 1890 when what became USPCC was still Russell, Morgan and Company. The nucleus of the collection was acquired from George Clulow, a graphics designer in England who wrote "The Origin and Manufacture of Playing Cards" in 1889. Catherine Perry Hargrave wrote "A History of Playing Cards" (1930), based primarily on the USPCC collection (which she catalogued). The artifacts span over 500 years and provide a global survey, especially strong in non-standard packs. A related library contains about 1000 books, some dating as early as the 1500s.
  • 1989 - Frontenac buys the USPCC.
  • 1986 - USPCC acquires Heraclio Fournier, S.A., the largest playing card manufacturer in Europe.
  • 1987 - USPCC acquires Arrco Playing Card Company, the third largest playing card manufacturer in the U.S. and previously called Arrow Playing Card Co. (1920's-1935).
  • 1991 - Bicycle decks are licensed for use in computer games.
  • Late 1994 - A successful buyout returned control of the company to Management and local investors, bringing the USPCC back to it's Cincinnati roots.
  • 2001 - The company acquires Hoyle Products and its Hoyle brand playing cards.
    • USPCC renewed its attention to the casino market by introducing tamper resistant cards. The following year the company began marketing cards that incorporated an anti-fraud technology developed by LaserLock Technology. Through this innovation, a visible band on a box of cards would indicate whether someone had tampered with the deck.
    • October 30, USPCC Museum closes without warning. By 2007 a small number of items from the collection are displayed while an unknown percentage of the collection had been sold and the rest remained packed up.
  • 2004 - USPCC braced for another reorganization as an acquisition bid from New York-based Jarden Corporation was accepted. Under the agreement, Jarden would pay $232 million for USPCC and the other Bicycle holdings, including European player Heraclio Fournier S.A. and the International Playing Card Company of Canada. There's a stipulation in the contract that the US Playing Card Company and its 510 employees will remain in town. In addition to gaining a company Jarden management referred to in a 2004 New York Times article as "the quintessential dominant player in a niche market," the prospective new parent vowed to focus on the company's profitable licensing agreements and non-card game segments as well.
    • USPCC acquires KEM playing cards.
  • 2007 - USPCC introduces a new line of playing cards called "PokerPeek" at the 2007 World Series of Poker. The face of each card has the rank and suit at all four corners, at a 45° angle to the card's edges, and the size of the traditional face designs are reduced and flanked by jumbo-index ranks. They were not popular with the players and were pulled from play.
  • August 20, 2009 - USPCC has Grand Opening of the new location in Erlanger, Northern Kentucky. Moved from Norwood (Cincinnati) Ohio against the agreement with management which secured the sale of the company to Jarden. In a news release Jarden states that USPCC will continue to have operations in Cincinnati, including a display of the company's museum of historical playing cards.
  • December 2010 - The Cincinnati division of the USPCC has moved across the river into a business park near the airport. They no longer have a gift shop, and it's not clear what happened to the remnants of the museum.

This article is compiled and written by Dazzleguts from the United Cardists forum.