Fragments from France Playing Cards

Early in December 1916, The Bystander announced that they had "just completed arrangements" for four of the "most popular" Bairnsfather cartoons to be reproduced on playing cards, which were to be of "Goodall's best quality and finish."

Established in 1820, London based playing card manufacturer Charles Goodall and Sons were, at their peak, the market leaders, employing a 1,000 strong workforce, producing over 2 million packs of cards annually. So it was no surprise that the proprietors of The Bystander decided to approach Goodall's when they decided to issue Fragments from France in this form.

The four cartoons to be used on the cards were - 

Keeping His Hand In

Well, if you knows of a better 'ole, go to it

Coiffure in the Trenches

The Eternal Question

The cards were sold through booksellers and stationers at 1s 6d a pack, or direct from The Bystander at 1s 9d. The ardent Bairnsfather fan could purchase all four sets for 7 shillings!

Keen to promote their latest Bairnsfather merchandising venture, The Bystander proudly announced that WH Smith and Sons "didn't know a better card" as "their stalls and shops have just placed for these cards what is the biggest order they have ever made for any playing card." In these pre-television days card games were extremely popular, and sales of the Fragments from France Playing Cards - promoted as "The New Bairnsfather Craze" - appear to have gone very well. By July 1917 a further six cartoons had been issued as playing cards -

That Evening Star-Shell

Situation Shortly vacant

So Obvious

The Fatalist

Where did that one go to?

Our Democratic Army

By the end of August The Bystander announced that the first four packs, published the previous December, had completely sold out, and were only available through booksellers and newsagents stock - adding that these sets would not be reprinted.

Later a further three cartoons were later added to the series -

The Same Old Moon

Happy Memories of the Zoo

The Nest

Making thirteen different packs of cards in total. 

Each pack was printed in a different tint - green, blue, red, mauve or sepia. They were sold in two editions - one a standard pack  in a thin card sleeve, the other an Edition De Luxe pack, in linette, with gold edges, presented in a superior quality sturdy slip case with a copy of the cartoon on the back.

Goodall's had developed a number of unique trademark ideas which they used on their cards. In the 1880's the company had started using special Ace of Spades cards, and in all of the Fragments from France packs, the face of this card featured the cartoon 'Gott Strafe this barbed wire.' 

Another of their initiatives was to include extra Jokers or blank cards which could be used for advertising. The Bystander was quick to take advantage of this promotional opportunity, and the Fragments packs included an advertising card giving details of their other Bairnsfather merchandise - including Fragments from France magazines, postcards and colour prints.

Fragments from France Playing Cards are a great addition to any Bairnsfather collection. However it is always worth remembering to count the cards if you come across a pack for sale. It is also a bonus to find a complete pack, including the advertising card mentioned, still in its original card sleeve or slip case.