Merry Andrew cards = playing-cards (or I can ask)

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Sep 4 21:55:23 UTC 2011

At 9/4/2011 04:37 PM, George Thompson wrote:
>  ... a mystifying phrase.
>           an ad from a grocer who had just received a shipment of
>stuff, which he lists in two columns.  In the midst of a very miscellaneous
>stock, he offers Merry Andrew cards.  What the hell were they?  (I know what
>a "Merry Andrew" was.)

Under "Merry Andrew", the OED has "†2. In pl.
Low-quality playing cards. Also Merry Andrew
playing cards. Obs."  Earliest quotation 1759, Pennsylvania Gazette.

Googling Books, I get about 34 hits for "Merry
Andrew playing cards".  And the massive total of
6 hits for "Merry Andrew cards".  But two of
these appear in books by current, living
historians of New England with whom I have
communicated before:  Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the
300th Anniversary University Professor of History
at Harvard University, and Charles E. Clark,
Professor of History emeritus at the University
of New Hampshire.  I can ask, if it's still necessary.

Apparently Ulrich can take the phrase back to
1750, in Boston naturally.  The earliest I see in
EAN for "merry" + "andrew" + "cards|playing" is 1762, New York.


>             THOMAS ROACH, In Water-street, No. 942, next but one to the
>corner of the Fly-Market, has for sale wholesale and retail, [Madeira,
>sherry, port, claret, rum, and groceries, spices; also ". . .
>Chambers best smoaking tobacco,
>Merry Andrew cards,
>Raisins and currants,
>             New-York Gazette; and W Mercury, September 1, 1777, p. 4

The American Dialect Society -

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