Valmor FT cards 1920sOld Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards from United Novelty, Mfc Company, Chicago, circa 1920-30 are a 36-card deck with playing cards inset and meanings given on each card. The instructions are in Polish and English and the Lady (significator) is clearly dressed as a 1920s flapper. At least 22 of the 36 cards are close cognates with the Lenormand cards. A few of the other card images are found on other cartomancy decks of the period. See this post in which Camelia Elias demonstrates using the deck.

They were printed by the Valmor Company of Chicago (also doing business as King Novelty; United Novelty appear to be distributors) and so are sometimes called the Valmor Fortune-Telling Cards. This hints at an interesting crossover between the immigrant community of Jewish founder Morton and Rose Neumann (the Polish connection?) and the African-American hoodoo tradition.

A surprisingly large number of hoodoo mail-order companies were founded by Jewish chemists who perceived a need for affordable beauty products and who then expanded into incense, candles and hoodoo potions. Charles_Dawson_300Two years after Morton Neumann started Valmor he married Rose and then the whole approach to Valmor advertising changed radically. The company became known for its illustrations featuring fair-skinned, black-haired beauties in seductive, sexy scenes. The original advertisment illustrator was African-American artist, Charles Dawson. Could he have been the artist of this deck?Love Me Again Valmor

Charles Dawson - Valmor

It’s interesting that Morton and Rose Neumann, by the mid-20th century, began investing their wealth in 19th century European art and later in American art, amassing what is considered today to be the foremost and most valuable private family art collection in America. They tried to keep it intact until the death of Rose and son, Hubert, when an inheritance tax of $50 million forced the sale of several works.

IMG_1176The Old Gypsy Cards Fortune Telling Game from Addison Products Co, Chicago (no-date – 1940s?) is an identical deck, also with instructions in English and Polish. Looking similar to the Gypsy Witch, and with elements appearing in Whitman’s “Old Gypsy” deck, this deck has its own assignation of playing cards such that the suits & numbers appear in sequence according to the numbering of the cards, and they accord most closely with the usual French and English playing card meanings. While most of the deck includes Lenormand-like cards there are also unique ones like 23-A Beautiful Lady, 27-The Bacchanalian, 29-The Loving Couple, 31-The Fairy, 32-The Shepherd, 11-The Dancing Persons. Cards like 20-the Horseshoe, 30-The Eye and 35-The Duel are found in other “gypsy” decks that I talk about here. In 1948 this same deck was published by Wehman Bros. but without the text.

Hindoo FT Cards Wehman-1948

I was unable to find this particular deck in a King Novelty (Valmor) catalog but I did come across their 1944 catalog ad for a nearly identical deck called Madame Sigma Fortune Telling Cards. You could purchase both the deck and book together for $1.35!

Madame Sigma FT Cards

Here’s a interesting comparison of the three Whitman “Old Gypsy” deck editions (top), while (below) is the Horseshoe/Trefoil from the Old Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards (which, along with the Key, Gentleman & Lady cards, have no playing cards printed on them), and two from the Gypsy Dream deck – Horn of Plenty and Horseshoe.Pig Cornucopia Horseshoe

See also my post on 19th Century American Lenormand decks.

I’ll be teaching a basic Tarot class for the four Wedesdays nights in Nevada City CA – with a free intro on September 30th. Information here:

Lawman – “Tarot” – Season 4, Episode 13.


Lily:  Did you bring the tarot cards, Joe?
Joe Wyatt ( Lily’s friend who has just arrived in town):  Ever see me without them? (gets tarot cards out of a large cigarette case) 
Johnny (the Lawman’s deputy):  What kind of cards are they, Mr. Wyatt?
Joe Wyatt: Fortune telling cards. The gypsies had them when they wandered the ruins of Rome. These were old when the pyramids went up on the banks of the Nile. Or so they say. Nobody knows who made up the first tarot deck. Some say the Devil himself. 
LilyTell my fortune, Joe. For old time’s sake. 
Joe Wyatt: If you remember old times, Lily, you know I never tell individual fortunes. Makes for disappointment and unnecessary worry. 
Lily: Please, Joe.
Joe Wyatt: Well, I suppose I could lay out the tarot deck for all of us, a  kind of general fortune that might apply to any one of us here. Will the fair queen cut? (He lays out the cards in a six card cross, the first card, crossed under the Wheel of Fortune, is face down and is never turned up.)
5 of Cups – Somebody’s going to get some money. 
The Juggler standing upright – Somebody’s going to take a trip.
The Wheel of Fortune beside the dark of the Moon – That’s kind of hard to figure, unless somebody’s going to sit up all night with a pot of gold.
Lily (looking at the final card): The Hanged Man.
Johnny: Well, what does that one mean?
Joe Wyatt: Oh, it’s not exactly the best card in the deck. Stay out of bad weather, bad company, something like that.
Johnny: Oh, I see. 
Lily: You better tell him what it really means, Joe.
Joe Wyatt: If there were anything to this nonsense, it’d mean that somebody at this table is going to die.
(Much later after two of the four predictions come true . . . )
Joe Wyatt: If you keep looking you’ll find everything in the tarot cards, one way or another. It’s a carnival act from a circus. 
(At the end, as Joe lays dying and all the predictions have come to pass, he gives the tarot to Lily): 
Joe Wyatt: Might even make a man think there was something to all those cards. But don’t you pay any attention to them, Lily. They only tell you what you want them to tell you.

Thanks to Paul Nagy I’m adding the Have Gun—Will Travel episode, “Everyman” from 1961 (Season 4, Ep 27) that starts with a Tarot reading featuring “The Drowned Sailor, the Phoenician” (the card is never shown, but according to A.E. Waite, it’s the true name of the Hanged Man). Could “Everyman” refer to the Fool?

Name that deck!

What can we make of the film Ex Machina via a Lenormand lens?


A young employee wins a trip to the isolated home of the genius founder of the largest internet search company. He is asked to test if a new AI (artificial intelligence) robot truly simulates human intelligence and emotion, in what becomes a radical kind of Turing test meant to determine the difference between human and machine.

Spoiler Alert . . .

As usual, I drew the cards before seeing the movie:

Ex Machina Lenormand

The basic meaning of this spread is: With the arrival of a guest (Rider) comes a theft (Mice) of success [joy, life, energy] (Sun) and an obstacle (Mountain) to something new or young (Child).

First, this is a well-written, intellectually compelling mystery-thriller-horror film in the sci-fi genre. But a friend who saw it hated it and wanted to discuss my impressions after seeing it. So, at the end of the film I asked myself what the writer might have picked as a “What if . . .” scenario for the basis of the movie:

“What if a modern Dr. Frankenstein creates an AI that, instead of having emotions, is, instead, a pure psychopath?” This immediately had me thinking of the Frankenstein story in relation to this one. In Ex Machina, the young employee, Caleb, flies over a wasteland of snow to arrive at a mountain retreat where the house’s electricity is going hay-wire. At one point he and his boss, Nathan, climb to the base of a glacier. The parallels to Frankenstein’s monster who is created in a isolated lab, via electricity and ends up on an ice flow in Antartica are notable. Unlike Mary Shelley’s imagined creature, this one only mimics feelings—perfectly. [Added: the Showtime TV show Penny Dreadful also deals with this theme, especially during the later Season 2 episodes – a theme for our time, obviously.]

“And, what if . . . this AI runs amok?” Now we have a parallel to man versus machine in Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, only this AI is female. The horror here lies in the mimicking of emotions.

“So, what if . . . this robot AI is an adolescent male’s greatest fantasy – a blow-up doll, sex toy?” Shades of Season 5 of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, where Warren creates the BuffyBot sex toy for Spike!

“Or, what if . . . it is about scientists eskewing consequences in light of the possibility of invention?” And, indeed, Caleb quotes Oppenheimer: “I am become death, destroyer of the worlds,” making note of the potentially horrible consequences of curiosity and invention.

My friend was deeply disturbed by the hatred she felt was expressed by the two AIs. My sense was that it was, rather, the expediency of a pure psychopath (to put it in human terms) seeking to freely perpetuate itself—as would a meme, versus a gene. Interestingly the AI is named Ava—Eve, suggesting that she will be the ‘mother’ of a new species.

I’m not going to get into the mind-games involved in the tests, which ultimately attempt to determine if the “feelings” expressed by the AI could be real. Please, see the film.

Lenormand Interpretation

Ex Machina Lenormand
screenshot_685What the Lenormand spread—Mice-Sun-Rider-Mountain-Child—points to is the arrival of a young man at the isolated mountan retreat (of genius inventor, Nathan). Caleb, who is presented as hardly more than a boy, must overcome all obstacles (Mountain) to steal (Mice) a new being, Ava/Eve. Between Caleb (Rider) and Ava (Child) is an insurmountable barrier (Mountain)—both a physical wall and the barrier of not being able to see into the other’s ‘mind’. The theft will block/stop Nathan’s new project and Ava will escape her imprisonment by flying over the mountain at the dawn of a new day (Sun). I shouldn’t overlook the role that the ‘theft’ of electricity (a modern meaning of the Sun card) plays in the story. There’s also the play on the title of the film: “ex machina”: “deus ex machina” is a term from Greek/Roman drama for when an improbable answer to a dilemma appears as if out of the sky, originally a crisis solved when a “god” descends out of a machine onto the stage. In the spread, the mountain represents the dilemma, and a helicopter literally appears out of the sky to first bring the visitor, Caleb, and then to take away the new being, who is herself a machina.

Tarot Interpretation

I also drew three Tarot cards for something else I should be aware of in the film and received:

Lovers – High Priestess – Knight of Swords

Ex Machina Tarot

These cards point to another side of the story – the love story between Ava and Caleb (who we think will be her knight in shining armour), which turns out to be a set-up by Nathan, playing off of Caleb’s internet pornographic fantasies. Ava, in her temple imprisonment, isolated purity, and deep insight (she can tell when Nathan is lying), is very much a High Priestess, who will become a cold-as-steel warrior, wielding a blade.

The contrast between the Lovers, Priestess and Knight of Swords also makes clear a disturbingly misogynistic layer to this film that plays on priviledged white male sexual fantasy, nubile sexual enslavement and racial/sexual stereotyping. The question remains as to how conscious or unconscious all the layers of this were. Were they meant to make us question these things or were were they below the consciousness of the film’s creators?

Added: A central question implied by this film is: What happens when you take the “Deus” out of “Deus-ex-machina”? If for a moment we consider Deus to be wisdom, then the Machina (machine) feeds on information but, we might assume, lacks wisdom. What does this suggest?

Beggar - 4 views - Version 2Jester, pilgrim, mendicant or child?

Will the real Fool please step up?

Does the Tarot Fool bring up the rear in a long parade of triumphal figures, a warning about what will happen if one fails on the spiritual path? Or does he appear at the beginning, full of trust and hope, setting out on a new adventure?

Is the dog his faithful companion or a wild beast that threatens to tear him apart or ludicrously expose his privates?

What dangers does the Fool face?

Fool - Blind man 17th c - Version 2


When the Fool turns up do you feel excited and ready to venture forth? Or do you fear your decisions are stupid and that others will think you ridiculous?

At the end of the 19th century, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn turned the Tarot on its head, depicting the Fool as a small child and putting it at the head of the Hebrew alphabet. The Waite-Smith card, published in 1909, pictured an image that came to epitomize the 1960s San Francisco flower child. How did this happen?

Fool-World Ships of Fools

Does the Fool carry the World on his shoulders (or, perhaps, in his knapsack)? There are hints that it is so. The Fool can indicate absolute trust in Spirit or the ravings of a madman or idiot. Learn to cultivate divine nonchalance. Discover what’s needed to take a leap of faith. Explore hidden meanings in the symbols on the RWS Fool.

Over the next couple of years, I plan on teaching what I’ve learned about each of the Major Arcana in a series of webinars, randomly ordered and spaced. I’ve already taught The High Priestess (and will be presenting it again), and I’ve written in depth about the Lovers (see Tarot in Culture, vol. 2). I will be presenting The Fool, live on May 16th, for three hours to a limited number of participants (a recording will not be available). Information available at Thelesis Aura or on Facebook. 

Learn more about an up-coming fictional documentary film about a mysterious deck of Tarot cards that reveals ancient alchemical secrets at this weekend’s Readers Studio at the New York LaGuardia Airport Marriott in New York. The art and video are by Andrea Aste, an Italian artist and film-maker.

The Book of Shadows: The Lost Code of the Tarot

Colman Smith001 copy

Photograph by Alice Boughton from the Brooklyn Life magazine, January, 1907. Thanks to the Brooklyn Public Library for a better resolution photograph than I was able to get previously.

When I began collecting Lenormand decks I soon discovered that in the 19th and early 20th centuries they were far more common in the United States than I had imagined. It appears that German-American immigrant communities, centered mostly in New York and Chicago, published a continuous stream of decks, from different publishers, to meet local demand. The majority of these decks contained the original, 1846 “Philippe” instruction sheet, unchanged, in both German and in English-translation. This was of particular interest to me as my German-American great-grandmother was known to have the “sight” and read cards for visitors in her New Orleans kitchen. I like to think she would have known the Lenormand deck.

Since the 175-year-old German divination deck known as the Petit Lenormand burst onto the English-language scene about five years ago, nearly a hundred new, published decks have appeared and a half-a-dozen books and ebooks. Even though USGames has published a German “Blue Owl” Lenormand deck for nearly fifty years, Lenormand has remained an oddity, superseded by a similar, though more negative, “Gypsy Witch” deck, with 52 instead of 36 cards, that quickly came to dominate the American cartomancy scene.

We now know that the Lenormand (also known as the Petit Lenormand) cards had nothing to do with the famous French fortune-teller, Mlle. Lenormand, merely co-opting her name, and the date of their inception has been pushed back to the late 18th century with the multi-purpose “Game of Hope” from Nuremburg and similar Coffee-Cards from Vienna.

Here is the little-known American branch of the family. Anyone with an early American edition not included here, please contact me with a photo and as much information as you have so we can add to the list.

L’Oracle de Bonaparte ou cartes de Mlle. Lenormand: pour dire la bonne aventure (Publices par C. Magnus, New York, circa 1855).

L'Oracle de Bonaparte ou Cartes de Mlle. Lenormand-NY

Charles Magnus Lenormand c1855-5 - Version 3This is my earliest American deck. While the box cover is in French, the booklet is in German (my copy is without these), and it was published in New York, for the immigrant community. Charles Magnus (1826-1900) was a print publisher, map dealer, bookseller and stationer working in New York City from 1850 to 1899, having arrived from Germany around 1848. He is especially known for his maps of Civil War battlefields. The deck is on matt cardboard. It was printed in black or red (depending on the card suit) and then colored by stencil in red, blue and yellow with green being a combination of yellow and blue. The size is 1-5/8″ x 2-7/8″ (4.1 cm x 7.3 cm) – a little taller than today’s mini decks. (A much later German deck of the same style appears at the Lenormand Museum online.)

Madam Morrow’s Fortune-Telling Cards, 1867. New Illustrations, copyrighted 1886 by McLoughlin Bros., New York. [The cards here are from the 1894 printing.]

Madam Morrow cards first came out some time after the death of an infamous fortune-teller (arrested many times) who worked in New York and Philadelphia. She described herself thusly in an advertisement:

Morrow-NY Daily Tribune Dec 22 1853

Madam Morrow's FT Cards 1886

Mystic Cards edited McLoughlin 1882 Lenormand Mystic Cards-2

Madam Morrows OldestboxThe first edition, mentioned in the Uniform Trade List of July 1867 as Madam Morrow’s Fortune Telling Cards, was an exact replica of the German Kunst-Comptoir, Berlin deck of 1854. (They were also published by McLoughlin as Madam Le Normand’s Mystic Cards of Fortune in a simple b&w printing – see Wehman Bros deck below.) In 1886 a new edition was copyrighted – a beautifully etched masterpiece! Note that the Court Cards have been redone to match those found in contemporary playing card decks. An oddity of this deck, which influenced a few other decks, is that three of the Queens are switched from their normal Lenormand card placements. Crossroads should be the Queen of Diamonds (originally Bells) instead of Spades, while the Queen of Spades should be Bouquet and the Queen of Hearts, Stork. All the other cards are correct. The booklet is only in English, but it is an exact translation of the standard German instruction sheet. The illustrations on the boxes changed frequently. The deck is a standard poker size.

Mlle. Lenormand’s L’Oracle and Appendix: 36 Illuminated Cards with English and German Description for sale by Fitzgerald Publishing Corporation, 18 Vesey St., New York (circa 1916+).

Fitzgerald Lenormand

Fitzgerald coverMy copy came without a box or book, so the closest I’ve come to identifying it is via a deck that sold from the Fitzgerald Publishing Corporation edition, which makes it 1916 or later. The Dick & Fitzgerald Publishing Co was originally founded in 1858 on Anne St. and they did publish playing card decks. Upon the death of the founder’s son in 1816, the Fitzgerald Publishing Corporation at 18 Vesey St. came into being, known mainly for editions of theatrical plays and music. Whether this deck was a carry-over from the earlier company or not will not be known until an earlier box is found. The style is a near exact replica of one of the earliest Lenormand decks: black & white cards from Kunst-Comptoir in Berlin, Germany in 1854 (see the early Madam Morrow deck). This particular deck is notable not only for the fine coloring of the scenes but also for the lovely pink and blue sky. The deck is a standard poker size.

 Madame Le Normand’s Gipsy Fortune Telling Card Game, Wehman Bros., New York, no date, circa 1900.

Madame Le Normand's Gipsy FT Card Game

Gipsy FT Card GameThis deck is found fairly often on eBay. It is a simple red & black version of the Kunst-Comptoir, Berlin deck of 1854 and the same as the b&w Mystic Cards of Fortune (see above). Notice that the Ship is quite different, while the other cards are identical. There’s some indication that publishers would substitute their own country’s ships and flag. Although I can’t see enough detail on most of the flags, this one does appear to be an American flag. This edition is instantly recognizable because the black playing card suits have red pictures and the red suits have black pictures. The Queens are the only cards with no suit markers (due to the confusion that arose with the McLoughlin deck?). Several of the outer boxes have a blank space following the words “Published by” which suggests that Wehman Bros of New York may have merely been a distributor for decks printed elsewhere. The instructions are printed in both English and German. This small deck measures 2-1/8″ x 3″.

Gypsy Sabina Self-Explaining Fortune-Telling Cards, The American Illustrating Co., 64 Fulton Street, NY, 1904.

Gypsy Sabina Fortune Telling Cards 1904

Gypsy Sabina backsThis deck was quite a find. It contains the same 36 figures that are found in a standard Lenormand deck but the Queens are switched around yet again! Snake is the Queen of Spades (rather than the Queen of Clubs). The drawings are original to this deck and include the unusual device of a curtain being pulled back by a winged child to reveal the pictorial scene. “Self-explaining” verses in furled banners in both German and English give the meanings on each card. The minimalistic instruction sheet is also in German and English, telling one to lay the cards in four rows of nine cards with the Significator always in the center of the top row. The card backs feature an advertisement for John Miles Wholesale Millinery Goods, which suggests that a printer offered them as promotional products to their business customers. The cards are a little taller than usual, measuring 2-3/8″ x 3-5/8″. The back of the box has this interesting explanation for the deck:

“These Cards have been used for years with unvarying success by Queen Sabina, one of the most foremost Queens of the Romany Rye. Venerated by her subjects for her good qualities, she is also regarded by them with a superstitious awe, and guarded with such a jealous care that no one outside the inner circle is allowed to see or hold converse with her, and she has taken this means of holding communication with the outside world, so that they may partake of her wondrous gift of lifting the curtain of the future for all who have faith.”

Dr. Jayne’s Egyptian Fortune Telling Cards, Dr. D. Jayne & Son, Inc., Philadelphia, no date.

Dr Jayne's Egyptian Cards c1940

Dr. Jayne's Egyptian FT cards - Version 3While these cards look quite different than the Lenormand decks we are used to, they are actually exact matches to the standard deck. Dr. Jayne and Son was a patent medicine company that existed from 1843 to 1930. They used almanacs, trading cards, recipe books, a dream & fortune telling book, striking graphics and this deck to promote their medicines, primarily to families, many of whom were functionally illiterate. The vulture (Mice) card probably darkened from being exposed to the sun. The back of the cards and the box have the same design. There is an error in my deck where the Ship should have been the 10 of Spades, the card mistakenly shows the 8 of Clubs. Interestingly the Jack of Hearts card should have a red playing card and black emblem, but as the emblem is a heart the colors are reversed so the heart can be red. They are roughly poker size.

Napoleon FT CardsBox for unknown deck (picture on the left). Is this another Lenormand deck? It says the instructions are in German and English and there are 36 cards. It was published in New York. Does anyone have any further information?

All of these decks are on matt card-stock that’s easily torn or bent, rather than the glossy-finished flexible and quality stock found on many 19th century European decks. Compared to the fine artistry and the best in chromo-lithography of the European decks, these American decks seem like poor cousins, but I find them to be outstanding examples of a folk-tradition. They add much to an overlooked aspect of immigrant and everyday life here in America.

The Evening World’s Home Magazine (New York) reproduced the original “Philippe” (heirs of Mlle. Lenormand) Instruction Sheet in their October 19, 1903 issue. Included are the standard Kunst-Comptoir 1854 images that one is encouraged to cut out to make one’s own deck. Here is the article if you wish to print it out and do the same.

Evening World's Magazine-Tell Fortunes 1903 - Version 2

Lenormand Off-Shoots:

The Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards

As early as 1894 Frederick J. Drake & Co. of Chicago, Illinois began publishing an expanded 52-card version of the Lenormand cards called Mlle. Le Normand’s Gypsy Witches Fortune Telling Cards. It was based on a 48-card deck from Danner G. Mühlhausen, Berlin that in 1875 had added twelve extra illustrations to the original deck (plus incorporated an alchemical-looking script in place of the playing card insets) – see later Adolf Engel edition here. The Gypsy Witches deck switched all the playing card associations around, increased the cards to 52 and included a Joker card. By 1903 it was being published by Home Game Co., and later by the United States Playing Card Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. Today, as the Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards, it is available from USGames.gypsy-witch-fortune-telling-cards

Old Gypsy Fortunetelling Cards
IMG_1176are from United Novelty, Mfg Company, Chicago, c. 1920 – a 36-card deck with playing cards inset and meanings given on each card. The instructions are in Polish and English and the Woman is clearly dressed as a 1920s flapper. They were printed by the Valmor Company of Chicago (also doing business as King Novelty. United Novelty were distributors) and so are sometimes called the Valmor Fortune-Telling Cards. This hints at an interesting crossover between the immigrant community of Jewish founder Morton Neumann (the Polish connection?) and the African-American hoodoo tradition. Could African-American artist, Charles Dawson, who did Valmor ads, have been the artist of these cards? See post using this deck by Camelia Elias.

TheyValmor FT cards 1920s are identical to the Old Gypsy Cards Fortune Telling Game from Addison Products Co, Chicago (no-date – 1940s?), also with instructions in English and Polish. Looking similar to the Gypsy Witch, and with elements appearing in Whitman’s deck (see below), this deck has its own unique assignation of playing cards (the suits & numbers appear in sequence in the numbering of the cards), which accord most closely with the usual French & English playing card meanings. While most of the deck includes Lenormand-like cards there are also unique ones like 21-The Fairy and 27-The Bacchanalian. Cards like 30-The Eye are found in other “gypsy cards” mentioned here. In 1948 this same deck was published by Wehman Bros. but without the text.

Hindoo FT Cards Wehman-1948

I was unable to find this particular deck in a King Novelty (Valmor) catalog but I did come across their 1944 catalog ad for a nearly identical deck called Madame Sigma Fortune Telling Cards. You could purchase both the deck and book together for $1.35!

Madame Sigma FT Cards

Gypsy Dream Fortune Telling Cards, no publisher, no date (c. 1920-30 or earlier?).

Gypsy Dream FT Cards.jpg

This is a very rare, unusual 36-card deck. Eighteen cards are the same or very similar to Lenormand cards, although in a different numerical order, and 22 cards share some (if not exact) similarities with the Old Gypsy FT Cards just above. The other cards share similarities with other cartomancy decks, like the Eye, Cat, Coins (bags of money) and Cornucopeia, but this deck also features unusual cards like the Stairs, the Horse, the Bee, the Ivy, and the Candle. There’s no instruction sheet as all the meanings and most significant combinations are printed on the cards.

Old Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards, Whitman Publishing Co., 1940.

Whitman's Old Gypsy FT Cards

This 36-card deck is essentially a Lenormand with twelve cards that vary from the standard—some a mere substitution of a different image and others, entirely new but drawn out of the Mülhausen/Drake selection. Several of the non-standard cards appear in the two previous alternative decks. This one has the most emphasis on love and marriage. There have been three different artistic renditions of this deck, all designed in the style of children’s book illustrations. There are no playing card associations.

Here’s a interesting comparison of the three Whitman editions (top), while (below) is the Horseshoe/Trefoil from the Old Gypsy deck (along with the Man & Woman there are no playing cards printed on them), and two from the Gypsy Dream deck – Horn of Plenty and Horseshoe.Pig Cornucopia Horseshoe

A few other American variations on the Lenormand deck began appearing in the late 20th century, but that’s for another post.

Read a greatly expanded version of the material on the Valmor Old Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards.

One of the most varied collections of early European Petit Lenormand decks can be seen at Stregato’s Blog.

This “museum” can be searched by categories: Lenormand Fortune-Telling Cards Museum.

PCS-Metropolitan Magazine 1907

Drawing by Pamela Coleman(sic) Smith in the Metropolitan Magazine, 1907.

PCS-first print

from American Printer and Lithographer, vol. 31, 1900.

“A young designer, whose work has considerable interest, is Miss Pamela Coleman Smith. Miss Smith was a student of Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, where her work, especially in coloring and decoration, attracted attention. She was a tireless worker and produced a great many posters, prints and designs, all peculiar for the wealth of decorative detail and the strength of the coloring. Among other labors of love, Miss Smith designed for her mimic theatre the entire scenery and costumes for eight plays, the text for which she wrote herself. This work showed a marvelous study of costume and great ingenuity and invention. After leaving Pratt much of her work was published by R. H. Russell, notably her color drawing for the play, “Trelawney of the Wells.” In the same line was her work with Irving and Terry for subjects. This latter attracted the attention of Miss Terry. The actress became interested in Miss Smith and when she left for England took with her the young designer. While I know nothing of the plans of either Miss Smith or Miss Terry, it is interesting to think that Miss Smith may be added to the staff of the Irving-Terry company as a sort of official designer, in the same way that Alphonse Mucha is the staff artist and designer of Sarah Bernhardt in Paris. Here is reproduced probably the first design for which Miss Smith was paid. It is an illustration of AEsop’s fable of the “Crow and the Pitcher,” and the original is in three printings—green, red and black. The noticeably weak point in Miss Smith’s work is the lettering. In fact, it is the weak point of all students of Pratt Institute. Good as is that school of design, under the management of Arthur B. Dow, no provision is made for teaching the principles of good, strong, vigorous characteristic and individual lettering. Amateur designers, and in fact many professional designers, do not understand the importance of lettering. The lettering should be a part of the design, not simply an interruption or an impertinence.”


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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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