Gaming Art Gallery
A Friend in Need
Cassius Marcellus Coolidge c. 1870
Gaming Studies Research Center


About this painting

     "Without question, the most recognized gambling paintings ever created are the various renderings of dogs playing poker by C. M. Coolidge. In fact, surveys have shown these paintings to be among the most recognizable artwork of any type.  Coolidge was born in upstate New York and began his career as a druggist and a painter of house numbers and street signs.  He also founded a small newspaper called the Antwerp News.  Coolidge was already known for his paintings of dogs playing cards before he was approached by the publishers Brown & Bigelow.  The company hired him to create calendars and other advertising products.  Coolidge is credited with producing 16 paintings of dogs-most of them playing cards-while in the employ of Brown and & Bigelow.

     "Of all Coolidge's dog paintings, "A Friend in Need" is his most famous.  Replicas have adorned the walls of basements, bathrooms, and pool rooms across America for a century.  The scene has a surprisingly modern look to it, which may account for its timelessness; only the cards, minus corner "indices," betray the period.  Once again, cheating is a focal point.  The game, without question, is five-card draw." -unattributed

     I think this painting is essential to any collection of gaming art.  What a revolutionary concept--dogs playing cards.  It's funny because in the wild, dogs don't play cards.  Anthropomorphic animals = immediate humor.  Also, you can look at this painting time and again and still notice new things.  For example, I just noticed that they have a painting of the Andromeda Cluster on the wall.  What's with that? 

     Rene Pottkamp, among others, has informed me that there is another version of this painting available. Check it out, along with an entire gallery of Cooldige paitings, here. Also, Rene related this tidbit about the paintings historic significance: "Coolidge's painting was used in the Second World War to boost the morale of Dutch citizens. The dog with the cigar being Churchill giving America help (on his lefthand side), which goes unnoticed. Russia (the most left dog) tries to attract USA's attention, while Hitler (the dog with the pipe and the "big ears" in front of the clock) watches anxiously."

     This is obviously one of the most important pieces of American art to ever be produced. -dgs

Artist biography from

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge created the whimsical poker dogs, a series of oil paintings made in the 1920s depicting a group not only playing poker but engaged in other usually human activities. It was the poker dogs who achieved national recognition from the 30s through the 60s, by appearing on calendars and in various other advertising media. This was an artistic subspecialty for Coolidge that was preceded by a string of careers. In the upstate New York town of Antwerp, Coolidge worked, almost simultaneously, as a druggist, painter of street signs and house numbers, and founder of the first newspaper and earliest bank - all within the years of 1868 and 1872. It was after a trip to Europe in 1873 that he turned up in Rochester, New York, as the portraitist of dogs whose life style mirrored the successful middle-class humans of his time. Coolidge's first customers were the cigar companies, who printed copies of his paintings for giveaways. His fortunes rose when he signed a contract with the printers Brown & Bigelow, who turned out hundreds of thousands of copies of his dog-genre subjects as advertising posters, calendars and prints. Cassius married late and had one daughter at the age of 66. He died in his nineties in the 30s.

More Coolidge

Go to the Yahoo! Directory entry for C. M. Coolidge.

Read an article about Coolidge from the NY Times.
(Pay to read)


Back to Gaming Art Gallery

gallery | next

Follow UNLVgaming on Follow unlvgaming on Twitter Twitter and UNLVGamingResearch on Facebook

© 2019 University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Do not copy or reuse without permission.

Last modified Friday, 08-Apr-2022 11:31:06 PDT
This page last updated Friday, 08-Apr-2022 11:31:06 PDT