Much of the World Once Used Playing Cards on Paper Made in Watervliet, Michigan
No matter if your favorite game is poker, blackjack or Old Maid, it's the cards that make the fun possible. For many people around the world, their playing cards began with paper milled in Watervliet, Michigan.
While Kalamazoo and Parchment, two counties east, are largely associated with the paper industry, the Watervliet Paper Company made its name, at least partially by producing card stock that were cut into playing cards as well as cards used by the board game maker Milton Bradley.
The card stock included a blue glue layer to lend opacity to the cards.
The North Berrien Historical Society, which covers Watervliet and neighboring Coloma, shared a display on Facebook with some of the work done by the WPC. They lay out the big numbers of output that came from little Watervliet:
Records indicate that in 1968, nearly seven million pounds of playing card stock was produced onsite....The playing cards were printed one deck, two, or four complete decks per sheet. The stock produced in 1968 was enough to make approximately 27.5 million decks, many of which were shipped to foreign countries.
More than 27 million decks of playing cards in a single year means there are likely many "Watervliet packs" laying in drawers around the world.
The Watervliet paper mill is now a memory. The buildings, which once sat on Main Street near the Paw Paw River, have been demolished. They sat across from a fantastic sledding hill, where children would slide down and watch the belching mill across the street.
This field is all that remains today of the mill:
It's very possible that some of these classic board games included cards that once got their start in Watevliet
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