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Our long, rich history began when A. O. Russell, Robert J. Morgan, James M. Armstrong and John F. Robinson Jr. formed a partnership and purchased from the proprietors of The Cincinnati Enquirer what was then known as the Enquirer Job Printing Rooms. The spaces occupied the first and second stories of the building at 20 College Street in Cincinnati, Ohio. The firm commenced business as Russell, Morgan & Co., referring to the two printers in the partnership.
While on College Street, the firm printed theatrical and circus posters, placards and labels. By 1872, the business had increased so much, it was forced to seek larger quarters, and in November 1872, it moved into a new, four-story building on nearby Race Street in downtown Cincinnati.
Mr. Russell proposed to his partners that they embark upon the manufacture of playing cards, an industry monopolized by several East Coast companies. The partners agreed and arrangements were made to add two additional stories to their building, making it six stories high. Many new machines were designed and built expressly for Russell, Morgan & Co. The first deck of playing cards was completed on June 28, 1881. About 20 employees manufactured 1600 packs per day.
Russell, Morgan & Co. became The United States Printing Company. Only three years later (1894), the playing card business had grown to such proportions that it was separated from the Printing Company, becoming The United States Playing Card Company.
The United States Playing Card Company gained immediate advantages, for it acquired other notable companies: The Standard Playing Card Co (Chicago), Perfection Card Co (New York) and New York Consolidated Cards Company. New York Consolidated Card Company had antecedents dating back to 1833 when Lewis I. Cohen perfected his four-color press for printing playing cards. The famous "Bee"® Playing Cards still issued by The United States Playing Card Company, had originated at the New York Consolidated Card Company in 1892.
Congress® playing cards is one of the original brands from 1881 which is still in production today and the card of choice for sophisticated bridge players. Likewise, the world-renowned Bicycle® playing card brand has been in continuous production since 1885.
The Joker is an American invention dating from about 1865 and has made different appearances in the Bicycle® card line. The first type represented a man on a high-wheeled bike. The bicycle later acquired two wheels of normal size. Then followed a series of playing card kings on bikes. These cyclists wheel past a milestone marked "808." Contrary to some opinions, this number has no mystical meaning. It is merely a reference number distinguishing this brand from others (such as "606") by the same company.