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Thomas De La Rue, 1834

Thomas De La Rue, 1834

Thomas de la Rue is an important figure in English card making history whose innovations lead to the introduction of mechanized colour printing to the production of playing cards.

Thomas De La Rue was born in Guernsey in 1793. He started his professional life at the age of 10 when he was apprenticed to his brother in-law, a master printer.

In 1818 De La Rue moved to London with his family and set up shop as a paper manufacturer. He tried his hand at a number of enterprises including the production of straw hats, and the proprietorship of a newspaper. But nothing would bring him good fortune and financial success as would colour printing and playing cards.

In 1831 he was granted a patent for the "making and decorating of playing cards". This meant that with his new invention he could print four colours in one pass, and in perfect alignment. It also meant that Thomas could churn out colour playing cards, in great numbers, mechanically and cheaply. And he did so from 1832 onwards.

The results of these innovations were bringing quality playing cards to the market, in large quantities at affordable prices. By the 1870s, De La Rue was selling 100,000 decks a year to the London market alone, which gives you an idea of how many were in circulation.

Further Reading

Regional Patterns of 18th Century France
The English Pattern
Gallery of Early Standard Playing Cards
WhiteKnuckle Standard Playing Cards



L I N K S

International Playing Card Society Decline of the English Court Card.
PlainBacks.com: Extensive gallery of early standard playing cards. Famous American and English makers. Plain Backs is a celebration of the English Court Card as a cultural design icon.
History of Playing Cards - Playing Cards.us: Brief History of Playing Cards
Sea Of Pain Fine Art Productions - Brett A. Jones works from his studio in Queensland, Australia. Only recently he has completed a rendition of the English Pattern.


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