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Category:John W. Hanley

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On September 28, 1898, John W. Hanley, a New York City designer of games and fortune telling goods, many of them based on astrological symbolism, applied for a Design Patent for this cup and saucer. The government duly granted him a patent for "A Cup or Similar Article" on November 8, 1898 (Design 29,617), with a patent term of seven years. The patent documents appear below.

Hanley was an interesting character. Under the imprint of his Planograph Co., he designed a number of games, many of them built around fortune telling concets and astrological symbolism. Zodiacal images appear in several of his patents.

In 1912 he patented a unique board design intended for use with ordinary playing cards as an aid to fortune telling. This "Game" (Patent 1,016,142, January 39, 1912) allowed 36 cards to be laid out on a series of rectangles grouped in rows of three, each group bearing images of stars and Zodiac animals with keywords indicating outcomes such as "Hope Triplicity -- To your Wish / Hope Assistance Jupiter / Hope Realization Aries / Hope Non-Assistance Saturn." The playing card poracl board came complete with a booklet of interpretations, the fore-runner of contemporary "little white booklets" that accompany modern tarot cards and cartomancy cards.

Among other games, Hanley patented an unusual form of Tiddlywinks that used a spider web design as a target board, and featured life-like drawings of house flies versus "Cave Spiders" and "Rock Spiders." ("Game Apparatus," Patent Number 1,114,608, October 20, 1914). This game had as its object "to teach the ultimate victory of good over evil or the optimistic domination of right conduct over evil conduct or influences" as well as "to teach the natural characteristics of certain insects such as flies and spiders" and "to provide amusement and develop the skill of the eyes as well as the fingers." The game board contains "secret parlors" in which are printed "the names of the various species of spiders which are presumed to be invited to a great feast by the wicked spy spider 13 who holds the center of the large web or parlor." In the end, the winner is "a fly able to destroy the spider's web."

A quarter-century after this beautiful and rare fortune telling cup and saucer set was made, John W. Hanley was still patenting games with astrological and fortune-telling aspects, as witness his Design Patent 63,366 for a "Game Board" (November 27, 1923) which was ornamented with the signs of the Zodiac.

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