The Joker Card Was Originally Created For Michigan’s Favorite Card Game
We all know that Euchre is the official unofficial game of The Great Lakes State. The trick-taking game is popular throughout the northern midwestern states referred to as the "Euchre Belt", with Michigan at the heart of it.
But did you know there was anything higher than trump? Because I didn't!
Origins of Euchre
Believed to be named after the popular German card game called Juckerspiel, which is pronounced with a Y-sound, early immigrants of the 19th century are credited with bringing Euchre to their settlements in Pennsylvania where it was then disseminated as they moved throughout the United States.
Another way Euchre gained popularity was through the Civil War. The card game was a common way for soldiers-- on both sides-- to pass time between skirmishes.
Before the introduction of Euchre in the 1800s, there wasn't really a need for a Joker card. Although here in the United States and Canada Euchre is commonly played with 24 cards and omits the use of the Joker, card game historian David Parlett says,
the Joker was added to a 32-card pack in the 1850s specifically for the game of Euchre...This gave rise to a variant game called "Euchre with the Joker" in which the blank card ranked above all the rest
As a Michigan Euchre player, I'm only familiar with the standard 24-card game which uses cards 9 through Ace with Jacks serving as the left and right bower. However, in some places, the blank card in the standard deck of cards was used to represent the "Best Bower" or "Benny" as a game changer.
A man named Sam Hart, whose family owned a stationary business, took it upon himself to illustrate the often-blank card. Card players across the country became such fans of his artwork that even after Euchre began to lose popularity, playing card manufacturers continued to include the Joker card largely due to Hart's artwork.
Have you ever played Euchre with the Joker?