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Wikipedia says

After the French Revolution some games started to use the ace or 1 as the highest card which symbolized the lowest in society rising above the King.

A discussion forum recently indicated that this reference is unverified, and that original sources were not easily found.

Sources showing French sculpture venerating the Aces, provides anecdotal evidence, as well with the history of French cards being stripped of noble symbol, and then reinstated by Napoleon.

The practice of 'aces high' could have come before the French Revolution, however, and been adopted then due to the alignment with situation.

  • Is there are usage of 'aces high' that predates the French Revolution?
  • Is there any evidence that the practice of aces high has wide renown principally due to the French Revolution?
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2 Answers 2

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For a primary source:

The game of whist is an ancestor of bridge, and is a trick-taking game where aces rank above kings. In 1742 or thereabouts, Edmond Hoyle published A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist. He assumes the reader knows the basic rules and jumps straight to strategy tips, but his explanations of strategies make it clear that the game at the time was played with aces high.

For instance on page 34 of a 1743 edition of the book (at Internet Archive), Hoyle advises the reader on certain cases when he should "win his Partner's King with the Ace".

So this is proof that there was at least one popular card game with aces high, being played more than 50 years before the French Revolution began in 1789.

As further evidence of the game's popularity, the 1749 novel Tom Jones by Henry Fielding mentions whist in Book XIII chapter v (with a complaint that the players spilled their beer on an expensive copy of Hoyle's book), and again in Book XV chapter iii.

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The game "Three card brag" is a 16th century game (pre-dating the French revolution) that treated the ace as the highest card. (Source: Bathe 1988, at p. 22)

The rise of the Ace to pre-eminence had it beginnings in the 14th century. [...] The practice was only further popularized in the republican fervor of the French Revolution (1789-1799) where many more games began to be played ‘Ace high’.

(Source: White Knucklehead Cards)

References

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    I initially voted this up, and then had second thoughts when I re-read the question. Why are these sources considered any more reliable than the original?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 1:07

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