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.
This 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.