Trips and Squeezers

After more than 10 years in magic I’ve accumulated a lot of playing cards. And I mean a lot. They’re under my bed, stacked on my dining table, scattered on book shelves, in my wallet, and of course there’s always one working deck in a steel case in my pocket. Whenever I need something offbeat I can usually find it. Last week though I had a need for cards that I couldn’t find in my collection. I needed four cards with visually different backs, similar face designs, good finish, poker sized, and with white borders. I was surprised that I couldn’t put it together, at least not without breaking up some sets of cards.

Bulldog SqueezersThis got me looking online for cards that would fit the bill. One deck that came to mind is the one in the image at left. I owned a couple of these cards but had no idea what they were called or where to buy more of them. The design is enigmatic: A menacing Moon in the sky, two dogs named Squeezer and Trip struggling against their chains to attack each other, and at bottom the phrase “There is a tie that binds us to our Homes”. What did it all mean?

I found the answer in an informative column from magician Mike Rogers. It turns out that the design commemorates what might now be an illegal anti-competitive agreement between merged card manufacturers:

The pack is a replica of a deck made in 1877 when two major card companies worked out a neat, but currently illegal, sales agreement. The deck was designed to commemorate the merger of the New York Consolidated Card Company and the A. Dougherty Company, to be known as Consolidated Dougherty. Card magicians will know this name from the Tally-Ho decks popularized by the New York magicians of the 40s, specifically Dai Vernon. With the merger came the nice agreement to split up sales territory with each staying on his own home ground. The design pictures two ferocious bulldogs straining toward each other at the chains that bind them to their dog houses. One dog’s collar says “Squeezer” and the other says “Trips” for the companies’ respective brands.

New York Consolidated made a brand called Squeezers with numbers in the corners like we use today. If you have ever cupped cards in your hand and sort of squeezed them into a fan to see the corner values you’ll quickly understand the name Squeezers. Poker players will almost always squeeze the hand into a fan so only the smallest part of the corners come into view. A. Dougherty had his own system. He reproduced the original card in the corners and called the brand Triplicate or Trips. Triplicates could be read three ways. Twice in the two corners and once by counting the center pips. Thus the name Triplicates, or what has become known as Trips. Hence, the names on the dogs’ collars. The dogs are chained to their houses to point up the agreement to remain on home turf for sales territories. Thus, “There is a tie that binds us to our homes.”

So now you know. The decks, known as “Bulldog Squeezers,” are reportedly still popular in Cajun parts of Louisiana, so if you live there you might be able to find them at retail. Otherwise you can do as I did and buy them online — assuming you have a use for strange cards with a story behind them, that is.

Comments

  1. Kat says:

    This is fantastic, Jacob! I love that you followed through and figured out the mystery! What a bizarre, wonderful factoid.

  2. J R Frosoni says:

    Thanks for the history lesson! I had always assumed the chained dogs and the obtuse inscription were a metaphorical reference to the civil war. I’m actually a lot more interested in the histories of the two card companies now, and wondering if the N/S distinction doesn’t still apply.

  3. I am from Louisiana and I will be fifty in August. I used to spend hours as a little boy watching my grandmother play with these cards. I would sip on “coffee milk” early in the morning and I remember asking her why the dogs were mad at each other. The moon was probably the biggest mystery. I was so curious as to why the moon was so obvious in its delight of the terrestial struggle below.
    Thank you for the primer on Squeezers!
    Any idea as to the artist or any additional or similar renditions?

    • Ken Clement says:

      Robert,
      I’m also from Louisiana, maybe about a year or two older than you, and have similar memories of the card deck and, of course, the “coffee milk”. As a child I never thought of any association with the Civil War as others had speculated. I always thought there was something foreboding going on though, that expression on the face of the moon is something I’ve never quite put out of my mind! At the time this was happening against the backdrop of the moon race and part of me couldn’t help but wonder if something ominous was awaiting us when we got there.

  4. Jacob Grier says:

    @robert meeker: Hi Robert, glad you liked the post! Unfortunately that’s all the information I have about this deck of cards.

  5. My story is kind of like Mr. Meeker’s. I’m from Louisiana, too, and I first saw Bulldog Squeezers when I was a small child. They were on my grandmother’s kitchen table after she had a late night playing bourrĂ© with friends. They have always been a little creepy to me, but familiar and comfortable at the same time. There’s a lot in the South like that, the whole “Southern Gothic” thing. Anyway, my $0.25.

  6. Steve Smith says:

    I grew up in south Alabama, and I remember these from playing penny-ante poker with my parents and uncles. The picture seemed mysterious, and I was fascinated particularly by that grinning moon. I assumed that everyone was familiar with this deck, but here in North Carolina whenever I mention those “cards with the bulldogs on them,” I’m met with blank stares. Now I’m wanting to get hold of a deck of Bulldog Squeezers for the nostalgia; however, rather than buy them off the Internet, I’m planning to look for them in the stores when I go home for a wedding this summer.

  7. Lynn Landry says:

    Hi, I found this post just after a trip home to South Louisiana. I love these cards. They remind me also of childhood, playing cards with cousins (we played Pedro on Bayou Lafourche or Bourre with my River cousins), and my uncles and dad playing poker while sipping Schlitz or high balls. I also learned to play poker with them using these cards and they are the only decks I truly love. Every time I visit home, I buy about 10 packs or so and give them as gifts. They are so unusual and cool and it wasn’t until I moved away that I realized that they were only sold in South Louisiana. Rumor is USPCC will no longer print these and on my last visit for Christmas 2011, my old standby resource no longer carries them. Very sad. I’m nobody in the card-playing community, but when I play cards, I notice that none compare to the quality of this deck.

  8. Duke Gremillion says:

    Being from South Louisiana also, I have fond memories growing up playing with Squeezers. They are becoming difficult to find and USPCC doesn’t list them on their website. They are without a doubt the highest quality playing cards I’ve ever used.

  9. E. Thomas Evans says:

    I recently purchased a Bicycle gimmick deck and it came with 4 Jacks with different backs and white boarders. The Jack of Diamonds had this back and I was so curious about it. Thanks for the information. As a magician, I’m very curious to know what the trick was that you needed the cards for, and if you were able to accumulate the needed cards. If not, grab a Bicycle Gimmick deck.

    Best regards!

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