Having noticed that the historical information on the Joker card is based on speculation, I seek lớn phối the record straight.

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The Joker: Top 100th Villain of all Time

Scholars have almost uniformly credited Americans with the creation of the Joker thẻ, and for good reasons. Although some authors assert that the Joker first appeared in the card game of Poker, most maintain that it was first invented for the game of Euchre mid-1850s. At that time, card manufacturers were including an extra “blank card” in their decks of 52, & the Joker thẻ found a use as the third và Best Bower in Euchre. Eventually the blank card or Best Bower developed into lớn the Joker thẻ, as suggested by thẻ historian Catherine Perry Hargrave sầu và others(1) . Well before 1850, American card manufacturers were not only making cards for games, but they also were making blank cards for other purposes. Gejus van Diggele, a thẻ collector of the International Playing Card Society (IPCS) has found 250 secondary uses for the blank thẻ.

No card in the American deck has inspired more characters và uses than the Joker thẻ. By the mid-1870s, the thẻ depicted a jocular imp, jester or clown. Many characters were also employed, và the blank thẻ became popular for politics, social satire, and advertising. In the 20th century, the Joker card inspired the creation of the Batman character in the comic books of the 1940s. Later, various movies represented the Joker as a notorious character who was a humorous, và sadistic trickster. In 2006, portrayed in a wickedly humorous manner, the joker was rated as number one on Wizard Magazine’s “Greakiểm tra Villains of All Time.” For card collectors, the joker card is the most coveted thẻ in the deông chồng due lớn the variety of styles và incarnations.

Currently, there are claims that the word “Jucker” influenced the establishment of the word “Joker” in Euchre. What one thẻ historian made as a suggested origin of the joker has now turned into lớn almost a certainty for many readers and some writers. For example, a Wikipedia article on the Joker playing card erroneously states, “It is believed that the term “Joker” comes from Jucker…”(2) However, no proof has been provided with references khổng lồ substantiate this clayên ổn. Euchre was America’s National Card trò chơi from about 1850 khổng lồ 1910, so its history should be updated as best as we know it. In introducing games or variants of games, it has been said that apparent genius generally amounts khổng lồ nothing more than the changing or blending of one or two concepts into lớn the game of consideration (i.e., Euchre).

The same applies to the creation of the Joker card in Euchre. This article will detail how the wild card, the Jack of Clubs, coupled with the extra 'blank card' added khổng lồ American decks of cards, developed into the Joker as we know it today.

I expect that there will be some skepticism," Babcochồng said about the discovery. "There should be. But I think it will cause some excitement. And it will probably cause some people khổng lồ look harder at the rocks they already have sầu. Sometimes it's just a matter of thinking differently about the same specimen."

— Anon


The Wild Card in Three Card Brag

Concepts from one game may be incorporated to modify another game. The wild card, as the J♣ in Three Card Brag, provided a vehicle to later impact the game of Euchre. Brag was an old English gambling game which became popular during the 1700s. Brag was also very popular with American colonists, especially in the South. President Madison’s wife, Dolly, was a card player, as documented in 1803. During her time, a letter states, “Cards were a great resource of an evening, and gaming was all the fashion, at Brag especially, for the men who frequented society were chiefly from Virginia or Western States and were very fond of this the most gambling of all games as being one of countenance as well as cards(3).”

As colonists moved west after the Revolutionary War, their favorite game of Brag moved with them. Brag used all 52 cards và employed a special “wild thẻ,” the J♣, which was called a bragger. In Brag, it is believed that this Jack of Clubs as a wild thẻ was probably borrowed from an older gambling game called Lanterlu (noted as "Lue or Loo” for short) which has a high trump thẻ called Pam or Pamphile. Pam was later called “Mistigris,” in another game, and “Mouche.”(4) This game may have sầu been popular in Louisiana at about the time Poker came inkhổng lồ existence from Poque. The American game of euchre did not come directly from the game or Loo.

My belief is that the concept of the J♣ as a wild card in Brag gave rise to the Joker thẻ in Euchre. It should be noted that the Left Bower in Euchre is similar in that it is not a ‘natural trump.’ The Left Bower can be viewed as a ‘wild card’ that gets promoted khổng lồ trump second in rank for each h&.

It is the game of Brag that is important to our discussion. Descriptions of Brag can be found in most of the Hoyle books on thẻ games from as early as 1725. For example, from The Compleat Gamester(5), 1725, 5th ed., Brag is described as using the J♣ as a wild card, but the 9♦ could be used as another wild thẻ if all players agreed. Brag consisted of three stakes. Three cards were dealt lớn the players, & the player who held the best thẻ won the first stake. What is important is that the second stake was won by “bragging” or “bluffing” that a player held was a better h& than his or her opponent. Bluffing in Brag is similar to bluffing in poker. Initially, Poker was called “Bluff” for several years. From 1830s to 1850s, Brag had more of an impact on Poker than any other thẻ game. The best h& combination or pair-royal in Brag won the second stake, or you could win by Bluffing your opponent that you held the best h&. The Jaông chồng of Clubs as a “wild card” called a “Bragger” could be paired with any other card(s) lớn make pair-royal.


Development of Poker

Poker is given credit as an American game, developed by French-Americans in Louisiamãng cầu from the game called Poque, possibly influenced by a French game called Bouillotte.(6) It was played with trăng tròn cards. At first, the game was called trăng tròn Card Poker,(7) & commonly played in the South and in the West beginning in the early 1820s. There were many similarities between Brag and Poker. For our purposes, the main elements that Brag & Poker giới thiệu are gambling, and bluffing. 20 Card Poker was limited by the number of players, and the maximum number of players who could participate was four.

Jonathan Green first documented in his 1843 book, An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling,(8) that Poker was played two ways, with trăng tròn cards and with a full dechồng of 52 cards. Adding the full deck was influenced by Brag was an important element in making the transition to lớn Poker as we know it today. Jonathan Green was a reformed gambler. His book was about the evils of gambling and the blachồng leg cheaters. He intentionally avoided describing games. Green says nothing about the blank thẻ for Poker or Euchre. He may or may not have been aware of players using the extra blank thẻ. In 1845, Henry Anners, in his book Hoyle’s Games, describes 52 thẻ Poker and Euchre.(9) This is the first time 52 card Poker or “Bluff’ is documented.


In the 1928 film, The Man Who Laughs, Conrad Veidt appeared as the character Gwynplaine. This served as the inspiration for The Joker in Batman.

Universal Pictures, fair use

The Blank Card Comes of Age in Euchre

I surmise that Brag, which used a wild thẻ, the J♣, was introduced into the game of Euchre & was the origin of the modern Joker. The games of Poker, Brag, và Euchre were all popular at the same time on the western rivers (the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi). Gamblers played multiple games, & this afforded them the opportunity for introducing the “wild card” concept in Brag to infiltrate the games of Poker and Euchre, perhaps simultaneously. Probably a professional gambler, or several at the same table, got the idea to lớn use the extra blank thẻ. In both Poker và Euchre, the J♣ và 9♦, which were wild cards in Brag, were already in use. The “extra Blank Card” that manufacturers had added to lớn their decks could be used as the “wild card” or best bower in Euchre and as the Mistigri in Poker. The timing of this was during the late 1840s to lớn early 1850s in the West. It took time for the blank card as an additional bower khổng lồ be accepted by Euchre players & make its way eastward.

Charles Meehan (aka, The Professor) in his 1862 book, The Laws and Practice of the trò chơi of Euchre(10), was obviously unaware of the “extra blank card” being used as an additional best bower. He never mentioned it but did include several variations of the game: Lap, Slam, Jambone và Jamboree. These game variations were new, and said lớn have been popular in the South and West. He thought the game of Euchre had a German background because of the word “bauer” but also said the Germans were not aware of the game.

In 1852, Thomas W. Svào published a popular humor magazine entitled “Yankee Notions.” Then in 1856, he designed new playing cards totally different from the classic cards for a series of 16 new games which he named Yankee Notions. His purpose of designing these new games was to lớn give sầu thẻ players some alternatives instead of using traditional cards which were associated with gambling vices. Strong’s Yankee Notions were first published in Hoyle’s Games(12), in 1857, edited by Thomas Frere, and were also in several other later editions as well. When his new games were published, the newspaper, Thành Phố New York Commercial Advertiser, stated, “We are glad khổng lồ see something in the way of domestic games, & social amusement, that we can recommover, not only for scientific and instructive character, but for its good moral influence(11).” These games were popular for at least thirty years (1857 - 1887) for those not wanting to lớn use classic cards & games.

Svào devised three elements different from classic cards: reduced the deông chồng to 50 cards, initiated five suits, và added all new names. One of the Yankee Notions games of major importance as related lớn the development of the joker was called “Black Joke.” In this game, all ten face cards were called Jokers and were printed with various humorous characters.


Game of Blaông chồng Joke - 1856

A h& with no Jokers was called a Blaông xã Joke,” the name of the game. What is important about this game is that the word “Joke” with its various humorous characters may have influenced some of the characters used later for the blank thẻ in Euchre. This also documents that the joker concept was already established as an American innovation before the word "Joker" was introduced in the game of Euchre by the mid-1860s. These games và cards called Yankee Notions, never became very popular and faded away by 1890 because players favored traditional cards & classic games.

It appears that Samuel Hart was aware of the “blank card” being used as a third & best bower at least by 1857. Catherine Perry Hargrave sầu noted in her book A History of Playing Cards, that a joker by Samuel Hart in his br& called Club House Cards, dated 1857,(13) appears to be one of the first jokers. Another Joker thẻ by the American Playing Card Company made their famous patriotic Union Cards, dated 1862, & is in the collection of the National Museum, Smithsonian Institution.(14) What is also of interest is that another joker card of 1863, by Samuel Hart, was labeled as an “Imperial Bower” – “This Card takes either Bower.”(15) Hart’s joker of 1863 was not the first joker as some thẻ historians have sầu claimed. At least two jokers were made before 1863 và possibly more but were lost khổng lồ history.

The first publication of the word “Joker” in a book associated with the game of euchre appears in The Modern Pocket Hoyle 4th ed. in 1868, by “Trumps(16). The Modern Pocket Hoyle lists a variant game called Railroad Euchre. Quoting from this Hoyle, “A Euchre pachồng is usually accompanied by a specimen blank card which has given rise khổng lồ this amusing variety of the game of Euchre. It is called “the Joker,” highest trump thẻ, và ranks above sầu the right bower.” This statement was commonly used for several years in books covering the mô tả tìm kiếm of Euchre. It was not unusual for various names lớn be used in conjunction with the blank thẻ in the dechồng, such as the Imperial Bower, Best Bower, White Knight, Little Joker, Jolly Joker, Benny, Specter, Ghost & Joker until early 1890s. It took time for this innovation to be accepted. For example, Charles Meehan authored the description of Euchre for The American Hoyle, 1864 and 1866 editions, without making reference to the blank thẻ as a best bower. The journal, Notes & Queries, (10th S. I. Feb 6, 1904, p 117), stated “The employment of an extra card as a master card appears khổng lồ have been introduced about the same time inkhổng lồ the game of poker, but in neither game was it first known as the joker. In euchre it was called “the imperial trump” or “the best bower,” in poker, “mistigris.” Thus, the name "joker" given to the blank thẻ most likely came into lớn existence just prior khổng lồ 1868.

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It should be of interest to lớn joker researchers và collectors that throughout this entire time period, the word “Jucker” or "Juker" cannot be found associated with Euchre or the joker thẻ by American or British writers. This is not surprising because the connection between Jucker-spiel & Euchre was not known until 1990 (as published in The Oxford Guide khổng lồ Card Games, 1990). Based on extensive retìm kiếm, it is ludicrous và without reference khổng lồ suggest the word “Jucker” influenced the word “Joker” for the blank thẻ or best bower. Thus, those making the clayên need to provide evidence to lớn substantiate their clayên.

The word “Joker,” meaning to lớn joke or lớn be humorous, had been around for many decades. It is worth noting that Thomas W. Strong used the term "The Jolly Joker" in his magazine Yankee Notions, Vol. VIII, 1859 before it was used in Euchre a decade later. However, this was in reference lớn his comic stories và jokes not cards.

The Choice of the Word "Joker"

Some thẻ historians seem to lớn have sầu overlooked the fact that the game of Tarot was known in America during the late 19th century. The game of Tarot was popular enough lớn be described in several editions of the book entitled The Standard Hoyle, Excelsior Publishing House (19), 1887 ed., 1904 ed. & 1912 ed. In describing the game of Tarot, he states: “There is one more Tarot called the fool or the joker. This is a thẻ which has neither hearts, diamonds, clubs nor spades on it, but is pictured like a jachồng. It is the highest trump và can take everything. The tarots take all the other cards, as would trumps, the joker being the highest, the one of tarots the lowest.” In this game a paông chồng of 54 cards was used in the United States. It is quite amazing that the author equates the fool as the joker & describes the Fool as a “Jack”. The point of this is that the game of Tarot was known in the United States in the late 19th century, where the Fool card was depicted with the same characteristics of the Joker thẻ in the standard dechồng of cards.

Another source on cards was the book Facts & Speculation on the Origin of Playing Cards(17), 1848, by William Andrew Chatto. This book was available to card manufacturers lớn read up on thẻ history & the Tarot’s Fool thẻ. The joker can be thought of as first cousin to Le Fou, The Fool of the Tarot dechồng. The Fool thẻ has a history going back several hundred years. In the early 19th century, its role is noted as the highest “trump card” that can beat all of the other cards. Tarot deông chồng authority, Dr. Robert O’Neill, says, “The ancestor of the modern joker is the classic tarot’s Fool(18).” However, the Joker card và the Fool thẻ are not one and the same. O’Neill explains, the Fool “belongs to lớn a set of 22 trumps, the Fool does not stand as an individual subject.” The Joker card in Euchre as best bower is similar to lớn the Fool card as it belongs to no suit in particular, yet is ranks as the highest card of all suits.

My theory is that once Euchre players started using the extra blank card as a third bower (as early as 1850), it was logical for card players lớn call it the 'Best Bower'. Cards labeled as the “Joker” evolved subsequently, and became common after 1900. It was the card manufacturers who settled on a unisize name for the blank thẻ. The term best bower only applied to lớn Railroad Euchre và not lớn the regular game. Perhaps card manufacturers saw the writing on the wall that the joker could be used in a wide variety of ways that included new games và advertising. With just a little retìm kiếm, they realized it was obvious that they should select a name that had to lớn meld with the existing Court Cards (King, Queen, Knaves) in their decks and with the concept of having power over all the cards. Card players liked the classic cards dressed as royalty of the 15th và 16th centuries. During this time period, the King’s Royal Court always had a jester, trickster or buffoon who was given freedom lớn entertain. The King’s fool was seen as a trickster, someone having special mystical powers. Card manufacturers did not have lớn look very far before finding a good choice since the word “Joker” had already been used in the game of Blaông chồng Joke of Yankee Notions in late 1850s. What reinforces this is that one of the first character jokers was labeled as 'The ‘Little Joker’ - by Andrew Dougherty appeared mid-1860s (Hochman AD7), a baby popping out of a box - pictured as a Jack-in-the-Box and looks similar lớn the Joker card #2 - 'The Baby' from Yankee Notions. The Jack-in-the-Box may have sầu been a metaphor with the "Jachồng," meaning a Bower which suddenly appears in a player's h& in the game of euchre.

JOKER - THE BABY #2 This thẻ from YANKEE NOTIONS may have sầu inspired The Little Joker in Euchre.

Catherine P.. Hargrave sầu p. 340 YANKEE NOTIONS -Blaông chồng Joker 1857

In summary, two key elements came together lớn create the joker thẻ in Euchre. One was the wild card in Brag, và the other was the extra blank thẻ added by card manufactures khổng lồ each deông chồng of cards. I conclude that the Joker card is a direct descendant of the wild thẻ, J♣, from the game of Brag. At about the same time Poker made a transition to lớn using 52 cards, thẻ players began khổng lồ incorporate the extra blank thẻ as a wild thẻ in both Poker and Euchre, probably simultaneously. At first, players simply called the blank card “the best bower” because that is exactly what it was in the game of Euchre. Other names were subsequently applied khổng lồ the blank thẻ. After a while, thẻ manufacturers wanted lớn capitalize on the opportunity khổng lồ settle on a word that gave universal appeal and as a best fit to the existing court cards. The word “Joker” was an obvious choice that met their requirements and provided for a multitude of future purposes.


1 Hargrave sầu, Catherine Perry A History of Playing Cards and a Bibliography of Cards & Gaming, Dover Publications, New York, 1966, p332 lớn 362

2Joker thẻ (Note: Wikipedia says, “term "Joker" comes from "Juker”)

3 Clark, Allen C. Life & letters of Dolly Madison, 1914 (Note: Brag was popular in 1803, p54)

4Meyer, Hermann Julius "Mistigri" in Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, Vol. 13. Leipzig, 1908

5 Cotton, Charles The Compleat Gamester 5TH ED. 1725, P68 (J♣ as Wild Card)

6Bouillotte (Note: a French game, played with 20 cards)

7History of Poker: notes đôi mươi card Poker

8 Green, Jonathan An exposure of the arts and miseries of gambling (1843)., Philadelphia

9 Anners, Henry F. Hoyle’s Games, 1845: 52 card Poker called Bluff, trăng tròn thẻ Poker and Euchre

10 Meehan, Charles (The Professor) The Laws và Practice of the trò chơi of Euchre, 1862

12 Ibid. (see Blaông chồng Joke in Hoyle's Games p167 - 168)

13 Hargrave sầu, Catherine Perry A History of Playing Cards và a Bibliography of Cards và Gaming, Dover Publications, Thành Phố New York, 1966, p362. Joker attributed lớn Samuel Hart, in USPCC collection.

14 U.S. National Museum - Smithsonian Institution on History of Playing Cards, 1896, p. 941 (Note: Union cards, American Playing Card Co. dechồng with Joker dated 1862)

15 Hart, Samuel, Imperial Bower, - This Card takes either Bower, www.wopc.co.uk,

16 “Trumps” (aka, William Brisbane Dick), The Modern Pocket Hoyle, 4th ed. 1868.

17 Chatkhổng lồ, William Andrew, Facts and Speculation on the Origin of Playing Cards, 1848


19 Excelsior Publishing House, The Standard Hoyle, 1887(Note: also included in 1904 & 1912 editions)

Questions và Answers

Question: What is a bower? How are bowers related khổng lồ euchre?

Answer: In Euchre, when the trump suit is declared, a Jaông xã then becomes a "Bower" & a high trump card. There are two Bowers in the trump suit, và the Jack of suit declared trump is the Right Bower. The other bower, Left Bower, is the other Jaông xã of the same color suit. This is probably the most complicated principle of Euchre.

Question: Could you elaborate more on the origin of the Joker card?

Answer: Internet viewers use Wikipedia as a source of accurate information. However, it is only as good as the author who does the research of his/her subject. With reference lớn the origin of the Joker card & the two sources cited actually boils down lớn only one source, which is Parlett.

David Parlett, a well-known card historian is also a member as well as the source of the Joker thẻ history used by the International Playing-Card Society (i-p-c-s). It should also be of interest that the i-p-c-s in their origin of the joker, appears lớn make a contradictory statement about Jucker being the source for the joker, … (quoting i-p-c-s) “A possible problem attaches khổng lồ this theory. We have old cards labeled Best Bower và, thereafter, cards labeled Joker. But “Eucher card” và “Juker card” have not been found inscribed on actual cards. Perhaps those transitional terms only existed in the speech of thẻ players. But nineteenth-century literature has not been found to lớn atthử nghiệm to lớn this possibility.” This statement is further supported by the fact that the word Jucker-spiel was not connected to lớn the word/game/ of Euchre until 1990, a 120+ years after the Joker card came into lớn existence.

Now lớn the second source, in Parlett’s book The Penguin Book of Card Games, 2008, he suggests (quoting), … Alsatian game called Juckerspiel from the fact that its two top trumps are Jucker, meaning “jaông chồng.” This word may also have influenced the choice of the term “joker” for the extra card introduced into American euchre in the 1860s to lớn act as the “best bower of “…! Thus, you see the whole connection of the word Joker khổng lồ Jucker is predicated on the statement “may have sầu influenced.” Knowing this was improbable based on my research, I personally communicated with both sources asking for more information. Neither could provide additional information. Parlett indicated he did not know the origin of the word Joker. This erroneous information is now widespread on the internet và in books on the subject.

Question: What is the general purpose of the joker in a deck of playing cards?

Answer: Generally, the use of the Joker in thẻ games is as a wild thẻ. It belonged lớn no suit, yet was a master thẻ of all suits. In Euchre, it was always the highest ranking trump card. If the trump suit changed, the Joker changed as needed. It was the thẻ of opportunity khổng lồ become anything you desired. In Poker, it could be paired with any thẻ, taking on the same value of the thẻ with which it was paired. The Joker became an integral feature of several games. The Joker card was an American invention.

Question: Why is the Joker or Benny thẻ commonly used in Cornwall but not in the States?

Answer: Based on my research the Cornish miners in mining operations in the United States such as the copper country of Michigan's UP, và the West learned how khổng lồ play euchre when the Best bower or Imperial bower card was introduced in the late 1860s và early 1870s. This was before the extra blank thẻ was officially named the "Joker card" by thẻ manufacturers. They re-named it the "Benny", meaning the top trump thẻ và took the game back to lớn Cornwall. Thus using the extra thẻ had already been established as a variant game called Railroad Euchre before the name "Joker" was commonly accepted. So it's a remnant of the American game of euchre.

© 2019 Phil R Neill


Phil R Neill (author) from Chester, Virginia, USA on September 19, 2020:

Thank you Amused by Jokers Am I (John) for your feedbaông xã. And I am surprised that Wikipedia has not updated their information that the word "Jucker" was not the origin of the word "Joker."


Phil R Neill (author) from Chester, Virginia, USA on February 17, 2019:

Thank you for dropping by. We are a long way from the 1860s when card games were one of the main pastimes. Everyone played cards. Euchre was the rage và the joker thẻ just born.

All the movies in the modern era with this humorous character, The Joker, came from the joker thẻ.

Robert Sacchi on February 17, 2019:

You're welcome.

Brad on February 17, 2019:


Reading this hub made me feel that I had no knowledge of thẻ games. I never even heard of these games much less there history. It is most likely that many people including myself wondered about the use of the Joker và the Blank Card, but had no idea about them.

The Joker & the Face Cards were taken for granted by me, and there was never a thought that they might be functional cards in some thẻ game. Thanks for the information and the education.

Phil R Neill (author) from Chester, Virginia, USA on February 16, 2019:

Phil R Neill (author) from Chester, Virginia, USA on February 16, 2019:


Thank you for your bình luận. Yes, Euchre was America's national thẻ game in the late 19th century and it is my passion.

Robert Sacchi on February 16, 2019:

I found your article fascinating. Congratulations on your first hub. It is a great start. What I find interesting is how once popular thẻ games apparently go extinct. Tarot I underst& was played for a couple of centuries and now is only used for fortune telling.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 16, 2019:

Welcome to lớn HubPages! This historical account is incredibly thorough và insightful, và you obviously both know your stuff and have a huge passion for euchre và card playing history. I look forward to reading more of your work!