South Sea Bubble Playing Cards 1720
- First Published: 1720
- Size: 3.9" x 2.5"
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The original Stock Market crash! 2008 was not the first major meltdown. This is the rarer of two packs of playing cards published by Thomas Bowles dealing with the financial scandals and faulty projects epitomised by the bursting of the South Sea Bubble. An advertisement appearing in Mist’s Weekly Journal in December 1720 for “Bubble cards … tricks of Stock Jobbers … Humours of Change Alley” probably refers to the present pack.
The cards, in fact, provide a unique contemporary record of’ the feverish activities of traders in stock, by depicting in cartoon form a series of domestic situations which, although doubtless somewhat exaggerated, represented the atmosphere of the time. Extensive rise is made of the balloon technique for reporting the speech of those portrayed and each card has a pithy, not to say in several instances coarse, verse describing the situation.
The cards offer not only a marvellous record of’ fashions of dress of the period but also commentary upon those who were tempted and fell as a result of the apparent gold rush – cobblers, reverends, lawyers, “a Brisk Young Gentleman”, Jews, Dutch, French, jobbers, doctors and so on. The difference that wealth made to the marriage market is dwelt upon at length: and one of’ the many interesting sidelights on history disclosed by this pack (of which at present only three complete sets are known) is that the status symbol most generally craved by the newly rich was as now a vehicle of transport; at that time a coach.
The kindness of Miss Sylvia Mann in permitting her pack of cards to be reproduced is acknowledged with grateful thanks.