SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The display case in the Holmes Room of the Southwest Harbor Public Library will feature the Old Maid Card collection of Marilyn C. Solvay throughout October.
A local resident of Mount Desert, Solvay has been researching the theme of spinsterhood since the 1990s when she was the American Studies Department Head at Lesley University, Cambridge, Mass. “If we delve into the history of the single woman of the 19th century, the Old Maid card game is a natural extension, and most of us remember playing it and folding down the corner of the old maid card so we would not be stuck with it in our hand!” Solvay said.
The collection has grown through the years and now numbers 30 decks. The oldest two decks date from the 1930s and feature cards like Peter Pudding, Old Harry, Henry Holler, Golfer McCaddie and Hans Dutch. The Old Maid’s Dog also appears on a card, a large chocolate Lab-like canine on a chair sitting upright with a huge green bow around its neck. Other decks date from the 1940s and feature cards like Homer Run, Golfer Gus, Princess Patty, Winnie West, Billie Bum and of course the inevitable Old Maid looking rather mild and pleasant in a purple dress.
This past spring, Solvay received a fellowship from the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., to study their playing card collection. Playing cards are perhaps one of the earliest games known as they were small, very portable and quite easy to produce. Solvay is currently writing several articles on the Old Maid card game.
Old Maid evolved from the “Spinster” or “Spinner,” a revered and important figure in earlier days, Solvay said. Only later in American history did she grow the wart on her nose, have a cat by her side and scare us with her looks and actions.
The public is invited to visit the library and view the card decks during October.
Call the library at 244-7065.