The Unknown Side of Playing Cards -8/9/16


For centuries, playing cards, which were once printed on just one side, were repurposed and used for hundreds of other tasks. When a deck became incomplete, the remaining cards were utilized in many secondary ways, both practical and creative. Paper was rare and expensive, and these centuries-old “secondary use cards” can today reveal interesting historical insights into past centuries.  Because of this, these second-use cards are eagerly collected, analyzed, and studied.

Gejus van Diggele is one such collector, scholar, author, and lecturer of second-use cards.  According to him, thrifty New Englanders adopted this form of recycling valuable paper by using these orphaned playing cards as invitations to social balls.  In his collection of over 5,000 cards, he has only been able to glean 52 of these rare New England cards.  In other collections, he has found another 70 from towns like Bellows Falls, Alstead, Rockingham, Chester, Charlestown, Claremont, Westmoreland, and several other nearby towns. Eight of these invitations were issued in Walpole, and seven of those, dating from 1812 to 1817, were addressed to the same girl, Miss Susan Lane.

Mr. van Diggele will present a lecture and slideshow explaining the history of these unique little time capsules and show examples of their uses over the centuries.  He will highlight all that he has learned about the popular Miss Lane, one of nine children born here in Walpole in the late 1700’s.  The event is free, and the public is invited to attend.  Sponsored by the Walpole Historical Society, this Speaker Series event is Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, at 7:00 PM, at the Town Hall.

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