Mcloughlin Bros. 1888 Little Jack Horner Game

mcloughlin bros gameThe popular nursery rhyme about Little Jack Horner inspired the creation of a card game by Mcloughlin Bros of New York.  Published in the late 1800’s, the game of Little Jack Horner includes elements of the old rhyme on its cards.  Plums of various kinds are pulled from card piles and used by players to form complete pies.  It was an entertaining game for the time.

The most common version of the Little Jack Horner rhyme is as follows:

Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said ‘What a good boy am I!’

The above melody dates to about 1870.  However, there is an earlier 1725 reference to the name and story of ‘Jack Horner’.  In a ballad by Henry Carey, called Namby Pamby, a story about Jackey Horner is found.  It shares the same tale of sitting in a corner, eating Christmas pie, and pulling out a plum with his thumb.

Although not confirmed, an even earlier connection to the rhyme may involve the property of Mells Manor in Somerset with a man named Thomas Horner.  During the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1500’s, it was said that Thomas Horner delivered a Christmas pie to the King.  This pie was supposed to have secreted 12 deeds inside, and was sent by the last abbot of Glastonbury to try and persuade Henry VIII to reconsider his ruling concerning the Abby.

This event later caused rumors to spread that possibly on his way to deliver the pie, Horner pulled a ‘deed’ from it and kept one for himself.  This deed was to Mells Manor, and some believe the Little Jack Horner rhyme relates to this tale.  Many nursery rhymes were written to represent and convey sensitive situations of the times.

The game of Little Jack Horner consists of 32 cards.  Four ‘Jack Horner and His Big Pie’ cards with numbers 2, 4, 5, and 7 displayed in the top left corner.  The other 28 cards are 7 each, of 4 different variety of plums; the Lombard, the Crugers Scarlet, the Dominee Dull, and the Green Cage Plum.  These cards display the numbers 1 thru 7 in their top left corner.

Little Jack Horner game cardsTo begin, the four Jack Horner pie cards are placed in a square, similar to the set-up for another 1888 Mcloughlin Bros. game called Puss in the Corner.  All other cards are dealt to the players and placed faced down in a pile.  Taking turns, players flip over their top card, and attempt to add plum cards to the pies.  Once the number 1 plum card is placed on a pie, all other plum cards in ascending order must be of the same plum.

If a player turns over a card from his pile and he can’t place it in the center pie cards, then he sets it in front of him face up, creating a discard pile.  He can only place a plum card if it can go in order of 1 to 7, and on the correct pie.  Once a pie is complete, the player who completes it, takes it.

A player may be able to play his top faced up card on his discard pile during his next turn.  He may also draw another card from his pile and play that too, if able.  After the draw cards are all used, players shuffle the discard piles and begin again until all cards have been used to create pies.

Score is as follows:

3 points is awarded to the first player who goes out of cards
2 points for each pie taken

The winner is the player with the most points, or the most points after 3 rounds.

The game Little Jack Horner is one of the many wonderful Mcloughlin Bros. game collectibles.  And although admired for the timeless images and theme resting in a display cabinet, it is even more enjoyable to bring out and play once in a while.




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Jenny Kile

Admin. of All About Fun and Games. Along with being an avid collector and player of table top games, I am a writer, researcher, treasure hunter, and Founder of Kardtects ( ) I believe fun is everywhere and you are welcome to visit my other sites: (which explores mystery, adventure and the search for treasures) and (which takes building card houses to completely new levels. Kardtects is the next generation of card house building!) Email:

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3 Responses

  1. Janet says:

    I have a game, cards and instructions in great shape. Box in poor shape.

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