What's in the Archives? Playing Cards!

What’s in the Archives? Playing Cards!

What’s in the Archives? Playing Cards!

We don’t play our cards close to our chest at the CLGA. Quite the contrary! We have a fascinating collection of playing cards available for researchers to shuffle through without the risk of upsetting the dealer. While some may dismiss these as just novelty items, playing cards offer valuable insights into the mainstream history of popular culture, sexuality, aesthetics, and entertainment in the LGBTQ2+ community. At the same time, they expose the gaps in that history by traditionally representing only men.

Now ready your hand and let’s go fish through some of our decks!

Five illustrated playing cards (Joker, Ace, King, queen, and Jack) decorated with queer imagery, including a muscular sailor, construction worker, drag queen, and hairstylist.

This set by San Francisco’s Hit The Deck Enterprises from 1981 entitled “Card Tricks” seems to be your standard deck. However, among the Kings, Queens, and Jacks you can find a mechanic, drag queens, a hair stylist, an interior designer, and a cowboy. A muscular sailor grins slyly on the Ace of Spades, his crotch covered by the spade itself.

By using graphic illustrations rather than photographs, this deck relies on stereotypical representations to make it instantly clear that it is geared towards the LGBTQ2+ community, and more specifically, gay and bisexual men.

Three playing cards, with one face down in the middle. The face up cards both depict two men kissing while the face down card depicts the silhouettes of two men flexing and facing away from each other atop a graphic pattern.

This deck from the 1970s is the most explicit of the bunch. Each card is decorated with two men engaged in a sexual act. Many of the cards do away with conventional ideas of what sex is and should be, featuring S&M, leather-play, outdoor-play, and cruising.

Ladies Home Companion playing cards spread out on a table. The card case is in the foreground and the 3 of spades remains in focus with an Asian nude model on it.

The Ladies Home Companion Playing Cards, produced by San Francisco’s Bo-Tree Production in 1972, are unique in our collection of cards from the ’70s because they include visible minorities on more than just one or two cards. The deck only features 13 models, but this includes one Black model and one Asian model, so they appear multiple times throughout.

Notably, the images on these cards were produced by women, Carol (Fulton) Turner and Judy Horst (learn more here). This may explain why the images have a significantly different tone than others found on playing cards in our collections. Here the models are more relaxed, and their genitalia is often hidden or in the cover of shadow. Despite the name, it is unclear if these cards were marketed primarily towards women.

Queer Pin-Ups playing cards spread out on top of a table.

Last, but definitely not least, is Queer Pin-Ups, my personal favourite set of playing cards housed at the CLGA. These cards feature art by 54 LGBTQ cartoonists, including Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse.  This limited edition set was created to raise funds for the Queers & Comics Conference presented by CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies in New York City during May 2015. They reflect much more of the diversity within the LGBTQ2+ community and have a wide-range of artistic styles and perspectives.

A closer look at some of the cards referenced here.

All playing cards featured here are available on-site at 34 Isabella Street. If you would like to work with them, please send us an email at queeries@clga.ca.

Author: Michael Pereira, Volunteer

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What’s in the Archives? Playing Cards!

What’s in the Archives? Playing Cards!

We don’t play our cards close to our chest at the CLGA. Quite the contrary! We have a fascinating collection of playing cards available for researchers to shuffle through without the risk of upsetting the dealer. While some may dismiss these as just novelty items, playing cards offer valuable insights into the mainstream history of popular culture, sexuality, aesthetics, and entertainment in the LGBTQ2+ community. At the same time, they expose the gaps in that history by traditionally representing only men.

Now ready your hand and let’s go fish through some of our decks!

Five illustrated playing cards (Joker, Ace, King, queen, and Jack) decorated with queer imagery, including a muscular sailor, construction worker, drag queen, and hairstylist.

This set by San Francisco’s Hit The Deck Enterprises from 1981 entitled “Card Tricks” seems to be your standard deck. However, among the Kings, Queens, and Jacks you can find a mechanic, drag queens, a hair stylist, an interior designer, and a cowboy. A muscular sailor grins slyly on the Ace of Spades, his crotch covered by the spade itself.

By using graphic illustrations rather than photographs, this deck relies on stereotypical representations to make it instantly clear that it is geared towards the LGBTQ2+ community, and more specifically, gay and bisexual men.

Three playing cards, with one face down in the middle. The face up cards both depict two men kissing while the face down card depicts the silhouettes of two men flexing and facing away from each other atop a graphic pattern.

This deck from the 1970s is the most explicit of the bunch. Each card is decorated with two men engaged in a sexual act. Many of the cards do away with conventional ideas of what sex is and should be, featuring S&M, leather-play, outdoor-play, and cruising.

Ladies Home Companion playing cards spread out on a table. The card case is in the foreground and the 3 of spades remains in focus with an Asian nude model on it.

The Ladies Home Companion Playing Cards, produced by San Francisco’s Bo-Tree Production in 1972, are unique in our collection of cards from the ’70s because they include visible minorities on more than just one or two cards. The deck only features 13 models, but this includes one Black model and one Asian model, so they appear multiple times throughout.

Notably, the images on these cards were produced by women, Carol (Fulton) Turner and Judy Horst (learn more here). This may explain why the images have a significantly different tone than others found on playing cards in our collections. Here the models are more relaxed, and their genitalia is often hidden or in the cover of shadow. Despite the name, it is unclear if these cards were marketed primarily towards women.

Queer Pin-Ups playing cards spread out on top of a table.

Last, but definitely not least, is Queer Pin-Ups, my personal favourite set of playing cards housed at the CLGA. These cards feature art by 54 LGBTQ cartoonists, including Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse.  This limited edition set was created to raise funds for the Queers & Comics Conference presented by CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies in New York City during May 2015. They reflect much more of the diversity within the LGBTQ2+ community and have a wide-range of artistic styles and perspectives.

A closer look at some of the cards referenced here.

All playing cards featured here are available on-site at 34 Isabella Street. If you would like to work with them, please send us an email at queeries@clga.ca.

Author: Michael Pereira, Volunteer

Please follow and like us:
Facebook
Google+
http://clga.ca/newsfeed/whats-archives-playing-cards/
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Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

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CONTACT US


Telephone: 416-777-2755
Email: queeries@clga.ca

Street Address:
34 Isabella Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1N1

Mailing Address:
Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives
P.O. Box 699
663A Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z9

PUBLIC HOURS


6:30 pm - 9:00 pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

1:00 pm - 5:00 pm Friday

NOTE TO RESEARCHERS:
Some of our materials are stored off site. Before visiting the archives, please send us an email at queeries@clga.ca listing in detail the topics and sources that you wish to consult and we will let you know when they will be available. We aim to respond to email inquiries within 4 business days.

The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives is located on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.

The CLGA strives to gather the stories of the unheard and silenced voices of the 2SLGBTQ+ first peoples of this land. We acknowledge that some stories have already been lost, and we aim to ensure that those that remain and those that are to come are preserved for the future.

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