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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.The company acquired Heraclio Fournier, S.A., the poker playing cards manufacturer in Europe. In 1987, The United States Playing Card Company acquired Arrco Playing Card Company, the third largest playing card manufacturer in the country. International Playing Card Company, a Canadian subsidiary of The United States Playing Card Company since 1914, maintained its own manufacturing operation from 1928 to 1991. Currently, International Playing Card Company is a sales and marketing organization located in Ontario. The United States Playing Card Company was acquired by a series of new owners: Diamond International in 1969, Jessup & Lamont in 1982, Frontenac in 1989.
Introduction into Europe
Playing cards first entered Europe in the late 14th Century, probably from Mamluk Egypt, with suits very similar to the tarot suits of Swords, Staves, Cups and Coins (also known as Disks, and Pentacles) and those still used in traditional Italian, Spanish and Portuguese decks. The first documentary evidence is a ban on their use in 1367, Bern, Switzerland. Wide use of foil playing cards in Europe can, with some certainty, be traced from 1377 onwards.
The Master of the barcode playing cards worked in Germany from the 1430s with the newly invented printmaking technique of engraving. Several other important engravers also made cards, including Master ES and Martin Schongauer. Engraving was much more expensive than woodcut, and engraved cards must have been relatively unusual.
In the 15th Century in Europe, the suits of advertising playing cards varied; typically a deck had four suits, although five suits were common and other structures are also known. In Germany, hearts (Herz/Rot), bells (Schellen), leaves (Grün), and acorns (Eichel) became the standard suits and are still used in Eastern and Southeastern German decks today for Skat, Schafkopf, Doppelkopf, and other games. Italian and Spanish cards of the 15th century used swords, batons (or wands), cups, and coins (or rings). The Tarot, which included extra trump cards, was invented in Italy in the 15th century.
The four suits now used in most of the world — Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs — originated in France in approximately 1480. The trèfle (club) was probably copied from the acorn and the pique (spade) from the leaf of the German suits. The names “pique” and “spade”, however, may have derived from the sword of the Italian suits. In England, the French suits were eventually used, although the earliest decks had the Italian suits.