The Royal Flush of Card Manufacturing: A Journey Through the United States Playing Card Company’s History

The United States Playing Card Company (USPC) has been the backbone of card game enthusiasts for over a century. With a rich history that spans from its inception in 1881 to its current standing as the world’s largest manufacturer of playing cards, USPC has left an indelible mark on the world of games and entertainment. In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating history of the United States Playing Card Company and explore how it became the card manufacturing giant it is today.

The Genesis: Russell, Morgan & Co.

The roots of the United States Playing Card Company date back to 1881 when Russell, Morgan & Co., a printing company based in Cincinnati, Ohio, started producing playing cards. As demand for playing cards grew, the company expanded its operations and eventually established a separate business dedicated to card manufacturing. In 1894, this separate business officially became The United States Playing Card Company.

Innovations and Expansion

Throughout its history, USPC has introduced innovations that have revolutionized card manufacturing. In the early days, one such innovation was a smooth, glossy finish applied to playing cards, making them more durable and resistant to wear. This greatly improved the quality of cards and helped cement USPC’s reputation as a leading manufacturer.

The company continued to expand and grow, acquiring competitors such as Perfection Playing Card Co., New York Consolidated Card Co., and Andrew Dougherty in 1907. This acquisition added the Tally-Ho brand, which had been owned by Dougherty since 1885, to USPC’s portfolio.

Iconic Brands and Card Decks

Throughout the years, USPC has introduced several iconic card brands that have become staples in homes and casinos worldwide. Some of the most notable brands include:

  • Bicycle: Launched in 1885, Bicycle cards are known for their distinctive design, which features a wheel on the card backs. The origin of the name remains a subject of speculation and may be based on folklore or unconfirmed accounts.
  • Bee: Introduced in 1892, Bee cards are popular in casinos due to their durability and slip-resistant finish.
  • Tally-Ho: Established in 1885 by Dougherty, Tally-Ho cards are a favorite among magicians and cardists for their intricate design and excellent handling qualities.

The World War II Connection

During World War II, USPC played a vital role in assisting the US military. The company produced “spotter” cards, which featured images of enemy aircraft to help soldiers identify and report enemy planes. USPC also created a special deck of cards for American prisoners of war. These cards could be peeled apart to reveal hidden maps, which helped captured soldiers escape and find their way to safety.

The Modern Era and Cartamundi Acquisition

In the latter half of the 20th century, USPC continued to grow and innovate. In 1986, the company introduced the first-ever plastic-coated playing cards, ensuring a longer-lasting, more durable product. USPC also expanded into the production of collectible card games, such as Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, further cementing its status as a leader in the playing card industry.

In 2009, USPC moved its headquarters from Cincinnati, Ohio to Erlanger, Kentucky. The company was acquired by Cartamundi, a Belgian card and board game manufacturer, in 2019. The acquisition aimed to strengthen Cartamundi’s global presence and broaden its product portfolio. In 2020, USPC relocated its headquarters to Dallas, Texas. The impact of the acquisition on USPC’s brands, products, and distribution has been largely positive, with Cartamundi’s resources and international reach helping to further expand and enhance USPC’s offerings.

United States Playing Card Company

The Future of USPC and its Brands

Under Cartamundi’s ownership, USPC is well-positioned to continue its growth and innovation in the playing card industry. The company is committed to preserving the legacy of its iconic brands while also exploring new opportunities and technologies that could shape the future of playing cards.

As the world of games and entertainment evolves, USPC remains dedicated to providing high-quality, reliable products to card players around the world. With a focus on sustainability, the company is also working to minimize its environmental impact by using eco-friendly materials and processes in its manufacturing facilities.


From its humble beginnings as a printing business to its current status as the world’s premier playing card manufacturer, the United States Playing Card Company has a rich and fascinating history. As part of the Cartamundi Group, USPC continues to set the standard for playing cards and bring joy to card players around the world, while maintaining its commitment to innovation, quality, and sustainability.

Image source: Wikipedia

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