The Ladies of Riverton’s Bezique Club

One of the most intriguing photos of old Riverton I have seen is this cabinet card with the caption, “Bezique Club” on the back.

I say intrigued because I had to look it up.

bəˈzēk/ noun:
  1. a trick-taking card game for two, played with a double pack of 64 cards, including the seven to ace only in each suit.
  2. the holding of the queen of spades and the jack of diamonds in this game.
antique Bezique set c. 1895 UK

A google search of “bezique” resulted in images of vintage and modern Bezique playing card sets as well as instructions and tutorials for playing variations of the game.

Czar Nicholas II and Alexandra played Bezique.

Winston Churchill, Tolstoy, and the Lord Alfred Duke of Edinburgh played it.

Well, not together.

Gustave Caillebotte, “Game of Bezique,” 1880

Gustave Caillebotte’s painting, Game of Bezique, depicts four 19th-century upper-class French gentlemen crowding around a card table observing two other gentlemen playing the trick-taking card game.

Bezique set box, c1895

We may reasonably conclude from the photo and the following news clippings that some women folk of Riverton also came to enjoy the Royal Game of Bezique during the last years of the 19th century.

a typical society column banner for the Philadelphia Inquirer

The first mention of the Bezique Club in the society columns of the Philadelphia Inquirer appeared on February 14, 1897, when Mrs. Spackman entertained the Bizque Club at her home on the 13th.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 14, 1897, p39

“Mrs. Cowperthwaite entertained the Besique club on Thursday afternoon.” – The Weekly News (Palmyra), Nov 20, 1897, p2

The Weekly News, Nov 20, 1897, p2

The Weekly News reported on December 4, 1897, that “Mrs. Cornelius entertained the Besique Club on Thursday afternoon.”

The Weekly News, Dec 4, 1897, p2

Two weeks later on December 19, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced, “The Misses Cook (presumably sisters L. and J.) entertained the members of the Bezique Club at their home on Main street on Thursday afternoon.

December 19, 1897, Philadelphia Inquirer, p37

(Apparently, the spelling of bezique baffled some journalists of the day.)

Mrs. Frishmuth entertained the Besique Club on Thursday.” – The Weekly News, Jan 15, 1898, p2

The Weekly News, Jan 15, 1898, p2

The Philadelphia Inquirer told of Mrs. Edwin H. Fitler‘s attendance to the Thursday, February 12, 1898 meeting of the Bisque Club. The Weekly News explained that the club had full attendance at Dr. Hall‘s. A Mrs. Hall is pictured in the group photo.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb 13, 1898, p37
The Weekly News, Feb 12, 1898, p2

The Inquirer noted the attendance of Mrs. William S. Poulterer, of Philadelphia, to the Thursday, October 22, 1898 meeting of the Besique Club in Riverton. According to The Weekly News, Mrs. Spackman and the Misses Campbell hosted the meeting.

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 23, 1898, p29
The Weekly News, Oct 22,1898, p2

The last news we found of the club was for the winter of 1898-1899.

Mrs. Edwin H. Fitler journeyed again from Philadelphia to Riverton for the card game on December 17.

Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec 18, 1898, p3

A month later, on January 21, 1899, Mrs. Cowperthwait entertained the club in her home for another Thursday meeting.

Philadelphia, Inquirer, Jan 22, 1899, p11

Names of card players are on the front, but one is illegible. Any guesses?

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We welcome any additional information about the Bezique Club and its members that will further illuminate the everyday life of this borough’s inhabitants over a century ago.

Published by

John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

3 thoughts on “The Ladies of Riverton’s Bezique Club”

  1. Great photo! The “illegible” looks to me like “E. Campbell”. This would fit the newspaper clip that talks about the “Misses Campbell” hosting one of these get-togethers. Thus it’s probably Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of the soup tycoon Joseph Campbell of 308 Main St. According to the NJ State Census of 1905 she was born in Dec 1867 so she’d likely be 31 or 32 here, which looks about right. It lists her occupation as “Librarian” and so she was, the first librarian of Riverton Free Library until her death in 1930. Her sister Antoinette (9 years younger) also never married and so was likely the other half of the “Misses Campbell”.

  2. Oh, and it looks like we have 3 sisters here. The Mrs. Spackman (#4) is very likely Ella Campbell Spackman, the Misses Cook’s older half-sister.

  3. Thank you so much to Roger for adding historical context to names and faces of the members of the Bezique Club. The content displayed here and elsewhere can only be enriched when more readers take part in a website that was designed from the outset to be a collaboration. -JMc, Editor

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