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Jazaniah Ford (1757-1832)

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Jazaniah Ford, Playing Card Manufacturer
Manufacturer of "the profane with the instruments of perdition"

The accompanying playing card was printed in Milton in 1825 by Jazaniah Ford, a playing card manufacturer who lived on the east side of Highland Street at the crest of the hill near Spafford Road. Here Mr. Ford probably used cardstock paper manufactured at Mattapan by the Tileston & Hollingsworth Paper Mill to make his cards. A skilled manufacturer, he had learned his trade from Thomas Crehore (1769-1846), with whom he was once in partnership, who manufactured playing cards on River Street in Dorchester Lower Mills as early as 1800, and is thought to have been among the first playing card manufacturers in this country. Mr. Crehore, whose brother Benjamin Crehore was a pianoforte and bas viol manufacturer in Milton Village, and Mr. Ford produced fine quality playing cards that were protected from imports as early as 1812 by a hefty duty and later an advalorem rate after 1846.

Mr. Ford (1757-1832) married Abigail Sumner (1760-1835), the daughter of Seth and Lydia Babcock Sumner of Milton. After their marriage, they lived in the house of her brother, Dr. Enos Sumner (who practiced in town from 1770 to 1796), which had been built in 1771. On a portion of this property, Mr. Ford opened his locally famous playing card factory. This playing card has an image of the Marquis de la Fayette (1757-1836) who was a hero of the American Revolution and was making his triumphal tour of the United States in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Revolution. On his return to Boston, he was entertained at the Milton Hill mansion of Dr. Amos Holbrook, a veteran hirnself of the Revolution, so he was as well known locally as he was nationally. The card has La Fayette's image in a banded reed cartouche with an American eagle surmounting it with a fluttering ribbon extolling its "American Manufacture." At the base is a black spade with a cannon and an American flag crossed with laurel and oak leaves on either side. These playing cards, printed "JAZh. FORD." were popular notjust as playing cards, but as momentos of La Fayette's visit and were as collectible in 1825 as they are today.

The playing card factory on Highland Street was destroyed by fire in 1861, and the old Sumner-Ford-McQuirk House was eventually demolished after a fire by 1880. Today, the only memorial to this early playing card manufacturer is his name on the black granite memorial set on the Sumner Family Tomb in the Olde Burying Grounds of the Milton Cemetery, and the occasional cards that come up at auction or ephemera shows that specialize in paper collectibles. The next time you take out the cards, remember that almost two hundred years ago they were being printed in town.

A Jazaniah Ford Playing Card


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