Flinch, a game played with a custom-made deck of cards, was invented in 1901 by A.J. Patterson. He grew up on a farm in Michigan and graduated from high school at the age of sixteen. After working at jobs in Grand Rapids and Chicago, he settled in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he was a bookkeeper at a stationery store, Beecher & Kymer.
One day, while playing cards at home, Patterson came up with the idea for Flinch. He designed a special deck and devised rules. Eventually he became head of the Flinch Card Company and ran it through the stationery store, renamed Beecher, Kymer, & Patterson.
According to a Kalamazoo history website,
It was reported that game stores had special signs made for their window displays that read “No Flinch Today” for when they were sold out of the game, and “Flinch Today” for when they received a new shipment. In 1903 nearly 1 million Flinch games were sold, and by the time Patterson sold the rights to Parker Brothers in 1936, over seven and a half million had been sold.
In 1904, when my great-grandmother, Mary Wingebach, had been married for two years, she visited family in Chicago. She wrote nearly every day to her husband, August, back in the Bronx. One her letters is interrupted by these lines:
Now I must stop and play Flinch dear.
10 p.m. or later
Deary I can’t write more now, as we played later than I had expected.
A couple weeks later, she writes:
Mamma and I are taking it very quietly this week, just little walks. Then we play Flinch in the evening.
According to Wikipedia, original versions of Flinch are available online for about $40. I found a deck from the 1950s on etsy.com for $12–I figured that’s old enough to get a flavor of the past. When it arrives, I will play Flinch with my game-loving friend Janet. I’ll pretend Mary and her mother are at the table with us.
Mary was pretty thrifty. Even though I didn’t spring for the 1904 version, I think she’ll be touched.