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Happy Families

January 6, 2023
by the gentle author

On Twelfth Night, when we celebrate the Feast of Misrule on the last day of Christmas and all the decorations come down, I dug out these gleefully grotesque picture cards from an old parlour game to amuse you – and to celebrate the old trades and small family businesses which were once part of the East End. Happy Families – A Most Diverting Game for Juveniles, Beautifully Coloured & Made at the Spear Works, Enfield, England.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. January 6, 2023

    They’re fantastic! Christmas is over, on to Mardi Gras., the best celebration of all.

  2. Paul Loften permalink
    January 6, 2023

    What a collection of tradesmen! Although perhaps , Happy Families wasn’t always the case
    One looks at the chimney sweep and the poor children that went up the chimneys in Victorian times. Could you imagine such a job? I may be mistaken but I seem to have a memory of a smutty face chimney sweep coming to clean the chimney in our old house as a child with a collection of brushes and poles . The price of coal fires was not just the poor children but the thick fogs . Peasoupers , as we called them . They caused so many deaths in the 1950’s .
    I also do recall the coalman as well delivering the sack of coal through the manhole to our cellar where the bogeyman was a permanent resident!
    Thank you GA for bringing us the memories of working Londoners from the past

  3. January 6, 2023

    I have long heard Happy Families mentioned in books, but I had never seen a set of the cards before today. They *are* grotesque, but sort of charming with it… they remind me a bit of those 19th-century nasty valentines (although I have to admit that I’ve never found those charming). What era are they? Late Victorian? Edwardian?

  4. Gillian Tindall permalink
    January 7, 2023

    `Happy Families’ was still well known as a family game just post-war, 1940s: I recall my grandparents being roped in to play on Sunday afternoons. But I knew the cards under a slightly different set of names – `Miss Bun, the baker’s Daughter’, `Mr Soot the Sweep’… The names in the Gentle Author’s set are sarkier, with the suggestion that the Grocer is putting sand in the sugar to make it go farther.

    The trick was to note what other people asked for, memorise what they might therefore already have (you couldn’t ask for a member of a family of whom you did not already possess one) and then pounce when someone appeared to have nearly a whole family. Truth-telling essential! A good exercise, no doubt, for the memory.

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