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Valmor Roaring 20s Fortune Telling Cards

A faithful replica of the famous “Old Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards” first published in 1920s Chicago. Part of a vibrant American folk tradition that flourished in the early to mid 1900s, the cards were commissioned by Valmor Products and published by United Novelty Co, both based in Chicago. They are believed to have been illustrated by Charles Clarence Dawson, one of the leading black artists and designers of the 1920s and 30s.

The deck features 36 illustrated cards, with meanings printed on each card in a conversational style, including several cards that only appear in this deck. Many of the meanings show a warm and freethinking view of life and love that is unusual in a deck of this vintage, making it the perfect deck for readings about romantic relationships or advice on life’s many choices.

The deck originally came with an instruction sheet in both Polish and English. A copy of that original instruction sheet can be downloaded here.

This was a very influential, or maybe I should say, much copied, deck. Copyright doesn’t seem to have worried anyone, and we see both the pictures and the meanings in card decks created by a number of different companies in the 1930s and 1940s.

Dating the cards

I’m basing my dating of these cards on two factors; the years when Charles Dawson was active at Valmore, and the clothing styles shown on the cards. I’m confident they were produced in the late 1920s to early 1930s, but can’t be more precise than that. I’ve called this replica deck the “Roaring 20s” because, although they may have been made a few years later, that’s the era they celebrate.

Why Charles Dawson?

The Morton’s didn’t allow their illustrators to sign their work, so crediting Charlse Dawson as the illustrator of these cards is a guess. But a good one; Dawson worked at Valmor starting around 1928, and designed and illustrated their labels and advertisements during those early years. His work is distinctive, and the cards look like other illustrations he is known to have created. They don’t resemble the work of Valmor’s other illustrators, most of whom joined the company much later.

Click on a card to view it's meaning
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