Texasn '45, from Jackson's Personal Collection.
When The Russell & Morgan Printing Company first began production of their Texan ‘45 brand in 1889, they knew nothing summoned the spirits of the Lone Star State better than the history of playing cards in America. From the eastern Piney Forest, across the Rolling Plains, all the way to the banks of the Rio Grande, Texans loved playing cards. They still do today. There couldn’t be a state more associated with their use. Texas Hold ‘Em, anyone?
In 1889, the RMPC was a soon-to-be playing card juggernaut but still in its beginning phases. They had been manufacturing US Playing Cards for eight years, and their product range was constantly expanding. By then, their brands had already encompassed many popular regions, occupations and interests. Steamboats, Sportsman’s, Tigers, Army & Navy, Congress, Capital, Tourists, Bicycle, Cabinet, were all brands keyed into specific demographics, and they all made perfect sense in the eastern United States.
The intended purpose of Texan ‘45s was to fill a deficiency in the market. People wanted an affordable playing card like Tigers/Steamboats but better quality like Bicycle. The RMPC answered the call with a bold new brand designed to fit in- between. Texan playing cards were advertised as “Triple Strength” and “Made especially to meet the demands of players desiring cards with a higher finish.” Texans were also superior in “strength and quality of stock” and would “outwear any similar cards.”
Unlike most brands under the US Playing Cards banner like 606, 707 or 808, Texan playing cards were given a meaningful number for identification and ordering purposes. The number 45 had long been associated with Texas because, in 1845, Texas was annexed into the United States of America and became the 28th state.
Research and reporting by:
Jason McKinstryworld of paper empires
Texan playing cards were produced for over forty years and phased out during The Great Depression. Across the decades, five-plus distinct deck versions were released, all featuring the now-famous “Texan” Joker. At launch, because they were competing with Tigers and Steamboats, Texans were exclusively offered in plaid/calico backs. This soon changed, and within a few years, the brand included many outstanding and colorful Texas-themed back designs like Saddle, Lone Star and Palm Leaf. For a short time in the early 1890s, like all USPCC offerings, Texan ‘45 playing cards were available with gold edges; they were called Extra Texan or ‘45x.
Like Texan ‘45 backs and AOS designs, many Tuck Boxes were produced throughout the brand's life. They were always spectacular and accurately represented (if not reproduced) the quality product that lay within. I've included the first tuck box design submitted in 1888, Registered 1889 on the front page and one of the last tuck designs patented in 1921 below.
Overall, Texans were an outstanding pack of cards, but who is that rider depicted on the Joker? There's a good possibility that its none other than Texas Jack.“
Texas Jack” Omohundro was a legendary American Cowboy, Frontier Scout and Adventurer. He was friends with “Wild Bill” Hickok and “Buffalo Bill” Cody and performed in Cody’s Wild West shows from 1872 until 1877. He was also a popular Dime novel character, with many stories written (mostly fiction) about his exploits across the American West. Jack died in 1880, but when the RMPC went looking for inspiration for their new Texan ‘45 Playing Cards, his continued popularity would have placed him at the top of the list. Similar to Texas Jack’s depiction in the dime novels, the USPCC’s version showcased their cowboy participating in various adventures. As the brand's popularity increased, he would soon become one of the unofficial company mascots and often appear in magazine/ periodical advertising and other printed materials such as Russell & Morgan’s yearly calendars.
In many ways, Texan ‘45 playing cards encapsulated the final excitement of America’s Golden West. As the great adventure finally came to an end and citizens moved on with the times into the 20th century, Texan playing cards, at least for a time, would remain a testament to wide-open spaces, cowboys and the country’s not-so-distant past.
The story of Texan ‘45 didn't end there because another country loved them almost as much as the Americans did. The Canadian division of The United States Playing Card Company began manufacturing playing cards in Toronto, Canada, in 1914. In 1918 they moved to Windsor and remained for 80 years. The decks produced in Canada were nearly identical to their American counterparts but easily distinguished by the address. Besides Bicycle and Congress, one of the most popular decks sold in Canadian history was Texan ‘45, and they were manufactured there until the 1980s.
In modern times the United States Playing Card Company has revived this old friend a few times. In 1984, The USPCC produced a Marlboro-inspired Texan ‘45 double deck poker set, and in 1985, they made an advertising tie-in deck for the Hollywood movie Silverado. Recently, a limited-edition run of Texans was manufactured in 2007 and again a few years later after the USPCC moved to Erlanger, Kentucky, in 2009.
1921 Anual Patent Record, Texan ‘45 Tuck Box design.
Texan design Trademark, Reg. Nov. 5th, 1889.