March 2020


We're at war! At least that is what some European leaders tell their population. Fortunately they don't refer to a war among European countries like we've seen in the 20th century and we all know how these conflicts have in the end affected the whole world. This time the war is against an invisible enemy, a virus.... covid-19, but usually referred to as "corona". In some countries the army is deployed to maintain order in the streets and to assist the medical services.
Let's just hope that together they will beat this new enemy with.......


It didn't take long after we had started collecting complete decks too that we decided to look for more information about our decks. We found that there were books, solely about playing cards and soon we had a small library of books about playing cards in general. Although it was quite expensive at that time, we thought that our library wouldn't be complete without the series of 4 books about the Cary collection.
It's only now that I did some research on this deck, that I learned that this was the same Cary as the one who was responsible for the publication of this deck: Melbert Brinckerhoff Cary Jr. (1892 - 1941).

He had a passion for printing. He founded the Press of the Woolly Whale (New York) and in the end had a library of some 20.000 volumes about printing, which were donated in 1969 to the Rochester Institute of Technology. But he was an avid collector of playing cards too. His wide collection, mostly antique decks, was donated to the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the Yale University. 
So it shouldn't be a surprise that he had the Press of the Woolly Whale print a special deck of cards. In 1933 it was the 15th anniversary of the end of WW I, a war in which Melbert had served in the 26th Yankee Division during their deployment in France since 1917. It lead to the publication of this non standard deck, designed by Allan B. Butler Jr.
The official name for the deck is "26th Yankee Division Playing Cards", but among collectors it's also known as the "Mademoiselle of Armentiers deck" (after the QH). This nickname refers to a popular song among the troops during the war: Parlez Vous a.k.a. Mademoiselle of Armentiers.

The designs are done in a caricature style and roughly based on the international pattern, see the "suicide" KH. The kings show generals and the jacks represent soldiers from the different regiments, like infantry and artillery, or the machine gun battalion. However, the queens make this deck attractive. They stick out in colour against the military green of all the other courts and they express joy and fun, while the military men look serious and firm, but also sad and even a bit shell-shocked (JD). 
There's one thing that doesn't show on the scans: the cards have solid gold edges. And now...... ENJOY!








The deck consists of 52 cards and a joker. Both joker and back carry the logo YD of Yankee Division. On the joker 103. F.A. is added, which stands for the 103rd Field Artillery regiment (155 mm). That probably was Melbert B. Cary's unit, with "accuracy and speed" as their motto.

Our deck didn't come in the original box, but I found a picture of one on the net. It's shaped as a book, titled Devil's Bible, with the Woolly Whale logo and date.