Green eagles: The fifth suit


Did you know that in the 1930s, some decks of American playing cards had five suits? The fifth suit was eagles, and instead of being red or black, they were green. Strange looking, aren’t they? My eyes keep trying to turn the green eagles into black clubs.

It’s quite possible that as a child I played with such cards, or that my parents owned such cards. But either I’d forgotten they existed, or I’d never heard of them. (These days that’s often the question. Did I once know this but forgot? Or is this really the first time I’ve heard of it?)

In any case, my son mentioned it today and I found it fascinating. Imagine a deck with five suits instead of four. How would that affect game play? Which games would be made more interesting and complex? Which would be impossible? Could you play your favorite solitaire game if there were five suits to manage?

Wikipedia covers the subject in some detail. Apparently five suit bridge and poker became popular in the ’30s and perhaps remained so through the ’40s, when I might have seen the cards. I remember quite well that my parents often got together with other couples for an evening of bridge. But whether the cards they used had four suits or five, I couldn’t say.

Other than an occasional game of solitaire, I’d lost all interest in card games by the time I got to college. Bridge and poker managed to survive without me, and I without them. But if you’ve an interest in five suit card games, you can buy such cards from a company called Stardeck, and — no surprise — their fifth suit is stars.




10 thoughts on “Green eagles: The fifth suit

    1. I was just bowled over. Somehow I suppose I thought playing cards had been the same forever. Wouldn’t surprise me if folks in the Middle Ages played with them. Or the ancient Egyptians.

  1. Interesting. I love playing Euchre, although now living in a state where people just give you a funny, “what’s that?” look when I mention it (it’s big in Indiana, Wisconsin, a few other isolated US locations, and Australia — yeah, try to figure that one out.) It would definitely add to the game, but I think most of it would be just having to follow suit since all trump will have been played out.

    I definitely like the “Star” shape better than eagles. Must easier to see and stands out more differently from clubs than the eagles.

    Thanks for the trivia lesson. Something I never knew, and I grew up with a deck of cards attached to my hands and a spare deck in my back pocket until I left Indiana in 1998.

    1. I’ve heard of Euchre but have no idea how to play. Played some cribbage in the ’70s, but that was about it.

      I usually love eagles, but these just aren’t distinctive enough to suit me (ew, no pun intended!). Maybe if they were lime green or something. The stars are certainly easier to distinguish. In England they used blue crowns for a while. I imagine those worked pretty well. Still, it seems so odd to have anything other than two blacks suits and two red suits.

  2. Good heavens, I’d forgotten all about it, I used to play Euchre when I was doing my military service 53-55 it was very popular in the Australian army at the time, being not that long after WWII I wonder, did perhaps the US forces stationed in Australia introduce this game,

    Had to go on Google heres a bit it refreshed some memories, the left and right bowes was the only words I recognized, 🙂

  3. I had never heard of a fifth suit until now, and like you, my interest in card games faded with my youth. Except for solitaire. I still like to play solitaire, Klondike draw three, but on the computer. The statistical interplay fascinates me. I’ve made my own modifications to make it more interesting – allowing play back down from the stacks of aces. With these changes I find I consistently win between 10% and 12% of the time. It’s an example of the statistical consistency of the universe, something I understand intellectually but which confounds my instinct. It is as though the cards know the proper outcome. Also, when I’m playing I find my subconscious is often still working on problems. Maybe it’s a form of meditation?

    1. Aha, well, if you hadn’t heard of it either, then maybe it’s not something I forgot to remember but rather, something I never knew. That’s good to know.

  4. You know, they look kind of familiar to me and I’m thinking my grandmother had a deck with these. They are odd looking. I wonder if they were produced during one of the world wars (Eagle being our national bird) as some sort of nod to patriotism? LOL. You always find such interesting little things to talk about.


    PS: Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

    1. They were first produced in the ’30s, between the two world wars, and I wouldn’t doubt the eagle had its roots in patriotism, much like the crown in England. But that wouldn’t explain why someone decided to introduce a fifth suit, although I suppose new game ideas are always cropping up. Cards were just a popular medium at the time.

      Yes, thanks, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Hope you did, too.

... and that's my two cents