Joker cards

Having noticed that the historical information on the Joker thẻ is based on speculation, I seek to set the record straight.

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The Joker: Top 100th Villain of all Time

Scholars have almost uniformly credited Americans with the creation of the Joker thẻ, & for good reasons. Although some authors assert that the Joker first appeared in the card game of Poker, most maintain that it was first invented for the game of Euchre mid-1850s. At that time, thẻ manufacturers were including an extra “blank card” in their decks of 52, and the Joker card found a use as the third và Best Bower in Euchre. Eventually the blank thẻ or Best Bower developed inkhổng lồ the Joker thẻ, as suggested by thẻ historian Catherine Perry Hargrave và others(1) . Well before 1850, American card manufacturers were not only making cards for games, but they also were making blank cards for other purposes. Gejus van Diggele, a thẻ collector of the International Playing Card Society (IPCS) has found 250 secondary uses for the blank card.

No card in the American deck has inspired more characters & uses than the Joker thẻ. By the mid-1870s, the card depicted a jocular imp, jester or clown. Many characters were also employed, và the blank thẻ became popular for politics, social satire, & advertising. In the 20th century, the Joker thẻ inspired the creation of the Batman character in the comic books of the 1940s. Later, various movies represented the Joker as a notorious character who was a humorous, và sadistic trickster. In 2006, portrayed in a wickedly humorous manner, the joker was rated as number one on Wizard Magazine’s “Greatest Villains of All Time.” For thẻ collectors, the joker thẻ is the most coveted thẻ in the deck due to lớn the variety of styles và incarnations.

Currently, there are claims that the word “Jucker” influenced the establishment of the word “Joker” in Euchre. What one thẻ historian made as a suggested origin of the joker has now turned into almost a certainty for many readers and some writers. For example, a Wikipedia article on the Joker playing card erroneously states, “It is believed that the term “Joker” comes from Jucker…”(2) However, no proof has been provided with references to lớn substantiate this clalặng. Euchre was America’s National Card Game from about 1850 lớn 1910, so its history should be updated as best as we know it. In introducing games or variants of games, it has been said that apparent genius generally amounts khổng lồ nothing more than the changing or blending of one or two concepts inlớn the game of consideration (i.e., Euchre).

The same applies to lớn the creation of the Joker card in Euchre. This article will detail how the wild thẻ, the Jachồng of Clubs, coupled with the extra 'blank card' added lớn American decks of cards, developed inlớn the Joker as we know it today.

I expect that there will be some skepticism," Babcoông chồng said about the discovery. "There should be. But I think it will cause some excitement. And it will probably cause some people to look harder at the rocks they already have sầu. Sometimes it's just a matter of thinking differently about the same specimen."

— Anon


The Wild Card in Three Card Brag

Concepts from one game may be incorporated to modify another game. The wild thẻ, as the J♣ in Three Card Brag, provided a vehicle lớn later impact the game of Euchre. Brag was an old English gambling game which became popular during the 1700s. Brag was also very popular with American colonists, especially in the South. President Madison’s wife, Dolly, was a card player, as documented in 1803. During her time, a letter states, “Cards were a great resource of an evening, and gaming was all the fashion, at Brag especially, for the men who frequented society were chiefly from Virginia or Western States và were very fond of this the most gambling of all games as being one of countenance as well as cards(3).”

As colonists moved west after the Revolutionary War, their favorite game of Brag moved with them. Brag used all 52 cards và employed a special “wild thẻ,” the J♣, which was called a bragger. In Brag, it is believed that this Jaông xã of Clubs as a wild card was probably borrowed from an older gambling game called Lanterlu (noted as "Lue or Loo” for short) which has a high trump card called Pam or Pamphile. Pam was later called “Mistigris,” in another game, và “Mouche.”(4) This game may have sầu been popular in Louisiana at about the time Poker came inkhổng lồ existence from Poque. The American game of euchre did not come directly from the game or Loo.

My belief is that the concept of the J♣ as a wild thẻ in Brag gave rise khổng lồ the Joker thẻ in Euchre. It should be noted that the Left Bower in Euchre is similar in that it is not a ‘natural trump.’ The Left Bower can be viewed as a ‘wild card’ that gets promoted khổng lồ trump second in rank for each h&.

It is the game of Brag that is important lớn our discussion. Descriptions of Brag can be found in most of the Hoyle books on card games from as early as 1725. For example, from The Compleat Gamester(5), 1725, 5th ed., Brag is described as using the J♣ as a wild card, but the 9♦ could be used as another wild thẻ if all players agreed. Brag consisted of three stakes. Three cards were dealt to the players, và the player who held the best thẻ won the first stake. What is important is that the second stake was won by “bragging” or “bluffing” that a player held was a better hvà than his or her opponent. Bluffing in Brag is similar to bluffing in poker. Initially, Poker was called “Bluff” for several years. From 1830s lớn 1850s, Brag had more of an impact on Poker than any other card game. The best hvà combination or pair-royal in Brag won the second stake, or you could win by Bluffing your opponent that you held the best hvà. The Jack of Clubs as a “wild card” called a “Bragger” could be paired with any other card(s) lớn make pair-royal.


Development of Poker

Poker is given credit as an American game, developed by French-Americans in Louisiana from the game called Poque, possibly influenced by a French game called Bouillotte.(6) It was played with 20 cards. At first, the game was called trăng tròn Card Poker,(7) & commonly played in the South & in the West beginning in the early 1820s. There were many similarities between Brag & Poker. For our purposes, the main elements that Brag & Poker tóm tắt are gambling, và bluffing. trăng tròn Card Poker was limited by the number of players, & the maximum number of players who could participate was four.

Jonathan Green first documented in his 1843 book, An Exposure of the Arts và Miseries of Gambling,(8) that Poker was played two ways, with trăng tròn cards and with a full deck of 52 cards. Adding the full deông xã was influenced by Brag was an important element in making the transition lớn Poker as we know it today. Jonathan Green was a reformed gambler. His book was about the evils of gambling & the black leg cheaters. He intentionally avoided describing games. Green says nothing about the blank card for Poker or Euchre. He may or may not have sầu been aware of players using the extra blank card. In 1845, Henry Anners, in his book Hoyle’s Games, describes 52 thẻ Poker and Euchre.(9) This is the first time 52 card Poker or “Bluff’ is documented.


In the 1928 film, The Man Who Laughs, Conrad Veidt appeared as the character Gwynplaine. This served as the inspiration for The Joker in Batman.

Universal Pictures, fair use

The Blank Card Comes of Age in Euchre

I surmise that Brag, which used a wild thẻ, the J♣, was introduced inkhổng lồ the game of Euchre và was the origin of the modern Joker. The games of Poker, Brag, & Euchre were all popular at the same time on the western rivers (the Ohio, Missouri, và Mississippi). Gamblers played multiple games, và this afforded them the opportunity for introducing the “wild card” concept in Brag khổng lồ infiltrate the games of Poker and Euchre, perhaps simultaneously. Probably a professional gambler, or several at the same table, got the idea khổng lồ use the extra blank card. In both Poker & Euchre, the J♣ và 9♦, which were wild cards in Brag, were already in use. The “extra Blank Card” that manufacturers had added to lớn their decks could be used as the “wild card” or best bower in Euchre & as the Mistigri in Poker. The timing of this was during the late 1840s to lớn early 1850s in the West. It took time for the blank card as an additional bower lớn be accepted by Euchre players và make its way eastward.

Charles Meehan (aka, The Professor) in his 1862 book, The Laws and Practice of the trò chơi of Euchre(10), was obviously unaware of the “extra blank card” being used as an additional best bower. He never mentioned it but did include several variations of the game: Lap, Slam, Jambone & Jamboree. These game variations were new, & said lớn have sầu been popular in the South and West. He thought the game of Euchre had a German background because of the word “bauer” but also said the Germans were not aware of the game.

In 1852, Thomas W. Svào published a popular humor magazine entitled “Yankee Notions.” Then in 1856, he designed new playing cards totally different from the classic cards for a series of 16 new games which he named Yankee Notions. His purpose of designing these new games was to lớn give sầu thẻ players some alternatives instead of using traditional cards which were associated with gambling vices. Strong’s Yankee Notions were first published in Hoyle’s Games(12), in 1857, edited by Thomas Frere, & were also in several other later editions as well. When his new games were published, the newspaper, New York Commercial Publisher, stated, “We are glad to lớn see something in the way of domestic games, and social amusement, that we can recommend, not only for scientific và instructive character, but for its good moral influence(11).” These games were popular for at least thirty years (1857 - 1887) for those not wanting to lớn use classic cards & games.

Svào devised three elements different from classic cards: reduced the deông xã to lớn 50 cards, initiated five sầu suits, and added all new names. One of the Yankee Notions games of major importance as related lớn the development of the joker was called “Blaông chồng Joke.” In this game, all ten face cards were called Jokers và were printed with various humorous characters.


trò chơi of Black Joke - 1856

A hand with no Jokers was called a Blaông xã Joke,” the name of the game. What is important about this game is that the word “Joke” with its various humorous characters may have sầu influenced some of the characters used later for the blank thẻ in Euchre. This also documents that the joker concept was already established as an American innovation before the word "Joker" was introduced in the game of Euchre by the mid-1860s. These games and cards called Yankee Notions, never became very popular và faded away by 1890 because players favored traditional cards và classic games.

It appears that Samuel Hart was aware of the “blank card” being used as a third và best bower at least by 1857. Catherine Perry Hargrave noted in her book A History of Playing Cards, that a joker by Samuel Hart in his brvà called Club House Cards, dated 1857,(13) appears to lớn be one of the first jokers. Another Joker card by the American Playing Card Company made their famous patriotic Union Cards, dated 1862, & is in the collection of the National Museum, Smithsonian Institution.(14) What is also of interest is that another joker thẻ of 1863, by Samuel Hart, was labeled as an “Imperial Bower” – “This Card takes either Bower.”(15) Hart’s joker of 1863 was not the first joker as some thẻ historians have sầu claimed. At least two jokers were made before 1863 and possibly more but were lost khổng lồ history.

The first publication of the word “Joker” in a book associated with the game of euchre appears in The Modern Pocket Hoyle 4th ed. in 1868, by “Trumps(16). The Modern Pocket Hoyle lists a variant game called Railroad Euchre. Quoting from this Hoyle, “A Euchre paông chồng is usually accompanied by a specimen blank card which has given rise to this amusing variety of the game of Euchre. It is called “the Joker,” highest trump thẻ, & ranks above the right bower.” This statement was commonly used for several years in books covering the mô tả tìm kiếm of Euchre. It was not unusual for various names lớn be used in conjunction with the blank thẻ in the deông chồng, such as the Imperial Bower, Best Bower, White Knight, Little Joker, Jolly Joker, Benny, Specter, Ghost & Joker until early 1890s. It took time for this innovation to lớn be accepted. For example, Charles Meehan authored the mô tả tìm kiếm of Euchre for The American Hoyle, 1864 & 1866 editions, without making reference khổng lồ the blank thẻ as a best bower. The journal, Notes & Queries, (10th S. I. Feb 6, 1904, p 117), stated “The employment of an extra thẻ as a master card appears to lớn have sầu been introduced about the same time inkhổng lồ the game of poker, but in neither game was it first known as the joker. In euchre it was called “the imperial trump” or “the best bower,” in poker, “mistigris.” Thus, the name "joker" given lớn the blank thẻ most likely came into existence just prior to 1868.

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It should be of interest lớn joker researchers and collectors that throughout this entire time period, the word “Jucker” or "Juker" cannot be found associated with Euchre or the joker thẻ by American or British writers. This is not surprising because the connection between Jucker-spiel và Euchre was not known until 1990 (as published in The Oxford Guide khổng lồ Card Games, 1990). Based on extensive sầu research, it is ludicrous and without reference lớn suggest the word “Jucker” influenced the word “Joker” for the blank card or best bower. Thus, those making the clalặng need lớn provide evidence khổng lồ substantiate their claim.

The word “Joker,” meaning to joke or to be humorous, had been around for many decades. It is worth noting that Thomas W. Svào used the term "The Jolly Joker" in his magazine Yankee Notions, Vol. VIII, 1859 before it was used in Euchre a decade later. However, this was in reference to lớn his comic stories và jokes not cards.

The Choice of the Word "Joker"

Some thẻ historians seem to lớn have overlooked the fact that the game of Tarot was known in America during the late 19th century. The game of Tarot was popular enough to lớn be described in several editions of the book entitled The Standard Hoyle, Excelsior Publishing House (19), 1887 ed., 1904 ed. & 1912 ed. In describing the game of Tarot, he states: “There is one more Tarot called the fool or the joker. This is a thẻ which has neither hearts, diamonds, clubs nor spades on it, but is pictured like a jaông xã. It is the highest trump & can take everything. The tarots take all the other cards, as would trumps, the joker being the highest, the one of tarots the lowest.” In this game a paông xã of 54 cards was used in the United States. It is quite amazing that the author equates the fool as the joker và describes the Fool as a “Jack”. The point of this is that the game of Tarot was known in the United States in the late 19th century, where the Fool card was depicted with the same characteristics of the Joker thẻ in the standard deck of cards.

Another source on cards was the book Facts & Speculation on the Origin of Playing Cards(17), 1848, by William Andrew Chatto. This book was available to lớn card manufacturers to lớn read up on thẻ history and the Tarot’s Fool card. The joker can be thought of as first cousin to lớn Le Fou, The Fool of the Tarot deck. The Fool thẻ has a history going back several hundred years. In the early 19th century, its role is noted as the highest “trump card” that can beat all of the other cards. Tarot deông xã authority, Dr. Robert O’Neill, says, “The ancestor of the modern joker is the classic tarot’s Fool(18).” However, the Joker card và the Fool card are not one và the same. O’Neill explains, the Fool “belongs khổng lồ a mix of 22 trumps, the Fool does not st& as an individual subject.” The Joker card in Euchre as best bower is similar lớn the Fool thẻ as it belongs khổng lồ no suit in particular, yet is ranks as the highest card of all suits.

My theory is that once Euchre players started using the extra blank thẻ as a third bower (as early as 1850), it was logical for thẻ players to lớn call it the 'Best Bower'. Cards labeled as the “Joker” evolved subsequently, and became common after 1900. It was the card manufacturers who settled on a unikhung name for the blank card. The term best bower only applied khổng lồ Railroad Euchre and not to the regular game. Perhaps card manufacturers saw the writing on the wall that the joker could be used in a wide variety of ways that included new games và advertising. With just a little retìm kiếm, they realized it was obvious that they should select a name that had lớn meld with the existing Court Cards (King, Queen, Knaves) in their decks and with the concept of having power over all the cards. Card players liked the classic cards dressed as royalty of the 15th & 16th centuries. During this time period, the King’s Royal Court always had a jester, trickster or buffoon who was given freedom to entertain. The King’s fool was seen as a trickster, someone having special mystical powers. Card manufacturers did not have to lớn look very far before finding a good choice since the word “Joker” had already been used in the game of Black Joke of Yankee Notions in late 1850s. What reinforces this is that one of the first character jokers was labeled as 'The ‘Little Joker’ - by Andrew Dougherty appeared mid-1860s (Hochman AD7), a baby popping out of a box - pictured as a Jack-in-the-Box và looks similar to the Joker thẻ #2 - 'The Baby' from Yankee Notions. The Jack-in-the-Box may have been a metaphor with the "Jaông xã," meaning a Bower which suddenly appears in a player's hvà in the game of euchre.

JOKER - THE BABY #2 This thẻ from YANKEE NOTIONS may have sầu inspired The Little Joker in Euchre.

Catherine P.. Hargrave sầu p. 340 YANKEE NOTIONS -Blaông xã Joker 1857

In summary, two key elements came together to lớn create the joker thẻ in Euchre. One was the wild card in Brag, & the other was the extra blank card added by card manufactures lớn each deck of cards. I conclude that the Joker thẻ is a direct descendant of the wild card, J♣, from the game of Brag. At about the same time Poker made a transition to using 52 cards, thẻ players began khổng lồ incorporate the extra blank card as a wild card in both Poker & Euchre, probably simultaneously. At first, players simply called the blank thẻ “the best bower” because that is exactly what it was in the game of Euchre. Other names were subsequently applied lớn the blank thẻ. After a while, card manufacturers wanted to lớn capitalize on the opportunity lớn settle on a word that gave sầu universal appeal và as a best fit lớn the existing court cards. The word “Joker” was an obvious choice that met their requirements and provided for a multitude of future purposes.


1 Hargrave, Catherine Perry A History of Playing Cards & a Bibliography of Cards & Gaming, Dover Publications, New York, 1966, p332 khổng lồ 362

2Joker thẻ (Note: Wikipedia says, “term "Joker" comes from "Juker”)

3 Clark, Allen C. Life và letters of Dolly Madison, 1914 (Note: Brag was popular in 1803, p54)

4Meyer, Hermann Julius "Mistigri" in Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, Vol. 13. Leipzig, 1908

5 Cotton, Charles The Compleat Gamester 5TH ED. 1725, P68 (J♣ as Wild Card)

6Bouillotte (Note: a French game, played with trăng tròn cards)

7History of Poker: notes trăng tròn thẻ Poker

8 Green, Jonathan An exposure of the arts và miseries of gambling (1843)., Philadelphia

9 Anners, Henry F. Hoyle’s Games, 1845: 52 thẻ Poker called Bluff, đôi mươi thẻ Poker & Euchre

10 Meehan, Charles (The Professor) The Laws và Practice of the trò chơi of Euchre, 1862

12 Ibid. (see Blaông xã Joke in Hoyle's Games p167 - 168)

13 Hargrave sầu, Catherine Perry A History of Playing Cards & a Bibliography of Cards & Gaming, Dover Publications, New York, 1966, p362. Joker attributed khổng lồ Samuel Hart, in USPCC collection.

14 U.S. National Museum - Smithsonian Institution on History of Playing Cards, 1896, p. 941 (Note: Union cards, American Playing Card Co. deck with Joker dated 1862)

15 Hart, Samuel, Imperial Bower, - This Card takes either Bower,,

16 “Trumps” (aka, William Brisbane Dick), The Modern Pocket Hoyle, 4th ed. 1868.

17 Chatto, William Andrew, Facts và Speculation on the Origin of Playing Cards, 1848


19 Excelsior Publishing House, The Standard Hoyle, 1887(Note: also included in 1904 và 1912 editions)

Questions & Answers

Question: What is a bower? How are bowers related to euchre?

Answer: In Euchre, when the trump suit is declared, a Jack then becomes a "Bower" và a high trump thẻ. There are two Bowers in the trump suit, và the Jaông chồng of suit declared trump is the Right Bower. The other bower, Left Bower, is the other Jachồng of the same color suit. This is probably the most complicated principle of Euchre.

Question: Could you elaborate more on the origin of the Joker card?

Answer: Internet viewers use Wikipedia as a source of accurate information. However, it is only as good as the author who does the retìm kiếm of his/her subject. With reference to the origin of the Joker card & the two sources cited actually boils down to only one source, which is Parlett.

David Parlett, a well-known card historian is also a member as well as the source of the Joker card history used by the International Playing-Card Society (i-p-c-s). It should also be of interest that the i-p-c-s in their origin of the joker, appears to make a contradictory statement about Jucker being the source for the joker, … (quoting i-p-c-s) “A possible problem attaches to lớn this theory. We have sầu old cards labeled Best Bower và, thereafter, cards labeled Joker. But “Eucher card” and “Juker card” have not been found inscribed on actual cards. Perhaps those transitional terms only existed in the speech of thẻ players. But nineteenth-century literature has not been found to atkiểm tra lớn this possibility.” This statement is further supported by the fact that the word Jucker-spiel was not connected khổng lồ the word/game/ of Euchre until 1990, a 120+ years after the Joker thẻ came inlớn existence.

Now to the second source, in Parlett’s book The Penguin Book of Card Games, 2008, he suggests (quoting), … Alsatian game called Juckerspiel from the fact that its two top trumps are Jucker, meaning “jaông xã.” This word may also have influenced the choice of the term “joker” for the extra thẻ introduced inlớn American euchre in the 1860s khổng lồ act as the “best bower of “…! Thus, you see the whole connection of the word Joker to lớn Jucker is predicated on the statement “may have influenced.” Knowing this was improbable based on my research, I personally communicated with both sources asking for more information. Neither could provide additional information. Parlett indicated he did not know the origin of the word Joker. This erroneous information is now widespread on the mạng internet & in books on the subject.

Question: What is the general purpose of the joker in a dechồng of playing cards?

Answer: Generally, the use of the Joker in card games is as a wild thẻ. It belonged lớn no suit, yet was a master card of all suits. In Euchre, it was always the highest ranking trump thẻ. If the trump suit changed, the Joker changed as needed. It was the card of opportunity to become anything you desired. In Poker, it could be paired with any thẻ, taking on the same value of the thẻ with which it was paired. The Joker became an integral feature of several games. The Joker card was an American invention.

Question: Why is the Joker or Benny card commonly used in Cornwall but not in the States?

Answer: Based on my research the Cornish miners in mining operations in the United States such as the copper country of Michigan's UPhường, and the West learned how lớn play euchre when the Best bower or Imperial bower thẻ was introduced in the late 1860s và early 1870s. This was before the extra blank thẻ was officially named the "Joker card" by thẻ manufacturers. They re-named it the "Benny", meaning the top trump thẻ và took the game bachồng khổng lồ Cornwall. Thus using the extra card had already been established as a variant game called Railroad Euchre before the name "Joker" was commonly accepted. So it's a remnant of the American game of euchre.

© 2019 Phil R Neill


Phil R Neill (author) from Chester, Virginia, USA on September 19, 2020:

Thank you Amused by Jokers Am I (John) for your feedbaông chồng. And I am surprised that Wikipedia has not updated their information that the word "Jucker" was not the origin of the word "Joker."


Phil R Neill (author) from Chester, Virginia, USA on February 17, 2019:

Thank you for dropping by. We are a long way from the 1860s when thẻ games were one of the main pastimes. Everyone played cards. Euchre was the rage và the joker card just born.

All the movies in the modern era with this humorous character, The Joker, came from the joker thẻ.

Robert Sacchi on February 17, 2019:

You're welcome.

Brad on February 17, 2019:


Reading this hub made me feel that I had no knowledge of thẻ games. I never even heard of these games much less there history. It is most likely that many people including myself wondered about the use of the Joker and the Blank Card, but had no idea about them.

The Joker & the Face Cards were taken for granted by me, and there was never a thought that they might be functional cards in some card game. Thanks for the information & the education.

Phil R Neill (author) from Chester, Virginia, USA on February 16, 2019:

Phil R Neill (author) from Chester, Virginia, USA on February 16, 2019:


Thank you for your bình luận. Yes, Euchre was America's national card game in the late 19th century & it is my passion.

Robert Sacchi on February 16, 2019:

I found your article fascinating. Congratulations on your first hub. It is a great start. What I find interesting is how once popular thẻ games apparently go extinct. Tarot I understvà was played for a couple of centuries và now is only used for fortune telling.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 16, 2019:

Welcome khổng lồ HubPages! This historical account is incredibly thorough and insightful, and you obviously both know your stuff and have sầu a huge passion for euchre and thẻ playing history. I look forward to lớn reading more of your work!

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