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History of Solitaire (Card Game): 25 Interesting Facts and Events

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Did you know that even today, we don’t exactly know the true origins of the card game Solitaire? The origins of this game are shrouded in history, with the earliest printed records mentioning the word solitaire dating back to 1746. 

When it comes to who invented this game, there is no giving credit to a single person, but a community of people dating back to perhaps the late 17th century.

Fast-forward to today, and the digital version of the game, available on most Microsoft Windows PC, is considered a legend of its time and widely regarded as one of the first true ‘time-waster’ games that is still loved and adored by billions around the world. 

Solitaire’s history is incredible, and you don’t even have to be a Solitaire fan to appreciate it. From Napoleon to Queen Victoria’s German husband, Albert, Solitaire was loved by many famous historical figures and mentioned throughout the pages of history! 

In this article, we’ll discuss 25 historical facts and events about Solitaire that you probably have never heard of. So, let’s get to it! 

1. The Birth Of Solitaire

The majority of historians believe that Solitaire first became popular in France, and it was possibly invented there as well. In the late 1700s, it was rumored that Solitaire was invented for the likes of Kings and Queens and played by the elite in royal courts. 

2. Making Way For More Card Games

With the rise in popularity of Solitaire in the late 1700s, several game inventors started making their own card games based loosely on the foundations and rules surrounding Solitaire. Games like “Ging” and “All Fours” owe a lot of their success to this timeless card game. 

3. Earliest Mention Of The Game In Literature

The earliest recollection of Solitaire in literature is from 1798 in a book of German origin called “Das Neue Königliche L’hombre”. 

In the book, there is mention of the word “Patiencespiel”, which expands to a competition between two players, each playing a game of Patience while people bet on them. Now, as we know, Solitaire was known as Patience back then. 

4. The First Solitaire-Dedicated Book

The first solitaire book (Patience) was published by Ednah Cheney in 1870 in the United States. 

5. Becoming More Than Just A Card Game

Another name for Solitaire is “Patience”. An appropriate name, as patience is what you will need most when playing this single-player card game. In the early 18th century, Solitaire became even more popular when gypsies played variations of the game as a form of fortune-telling. 

6. Solitaire – A Cry For Help

In the Napoleonic era, a key figure in history, famous for authoring the book “War and Peace”, Leo Tolstoy, mentioned how Solitaire played a vital role in his life as the game helped him with decision making and strategy. 

7. The Little Corporal’s Favorite Game

On April 11, 1814, Napoleon was exiled to a deserted island in the South Atlantic, known as St Helena. People living there found out that Napoleon played the Solitaire game to relax. As he was alone, playing Solitaire was one of his favorite hobbies.

8. The First Collection

Soon after Napoleon’s exile, Russia became the first country to publish a collection of Patience games. This action was then followed by Germany and France. These collections stood “lowkey” during that time, only to get their deserved fame in the late 1860s when they were translated to English from German or French.

Another fun fact, many of the authors for these collections were women! 

9. Great Expectations!  

In 1861, Charles Dickens came out with one of the best-selling books all over the world to this day, called “Great Expectations”. In the book, there are several mentions of card games like Solitaire.

10. Solitaire and The United Kingdom

During the same year “Great Expectations” came out, it was also somehow sourced that the husband of Queen Victoria, Albert, was a great player of Solitaire and could often be seen playing the game. 

11. Rules, Rules, & More Rules

As solitaire kept getting popular, people started twisting the rules to their liking, making the game easier to beat. This soon changed when in the 19th century, Lady Adelaide wrote a book named “Illustrated Games Of Patience” for Queen Victoria’s son. The book contained several different rules for Solitaire games and its other variants. 

12. Solit-erature

After Lady Adelaide’s book, people all over the world started writing their own books on Solitaire and its variants. An honorable mention goes to Miss Mary Whitmore, who is popular for writing five whole volumes of Solitaire books. 

As people were getting more literate, the books were being read more and more, resulting in the efficient promotion of the card game; Solitaire.

13. Complete Book Of Patience

Another significant recollection of Solitaire books originates from Albert Morehead and Geoffrey Mott-Smith’s publications from 1950, when they published a book classifying the rules of the game; called the “Complete Book Of Patience”. 

14. Going Hollywood

In 1962, a movie titled “The Manchurian Candidate” was released, which had plenty of scenes that brought attention to Solitaire. 

15. More Than A Mind Game

Similar to how Napoleon played Solitaire to combat his loneliness and keep his sanity, Solitaire made its way into mental asylums when prisoners would be given Solitaire cards to play games such as Cribbage Solitaire; an invention of Bill Beers. 

16. Digitally Invented By An Intern

In 1990, Wes Cherry, an intern at Microsoft, decided to integrate the Solitaire card game digitally into their new Windows 3.0 at the time. The rest is history…

17. Card Designs

The card deck you see when you boot up Microsoft Solitaire on your desktop was designed by Susan Kare, one of the head graphic designers over at Apple. 

18. A Tool To Help People Learn How To Use A Mouse 

In 1990, when Solitaire became a part of Microsoft, it was presented to the world as a tool to help them learn how to use their PC mouse to do certain tasks such as dragging and dropping, closing a tab, etc. Solitaire was never intended to become a game that has acquired legendary status all over the world.

19. Changing Perceptions

After Solitaire’s digital release, people stopped thinking that Solitaire was just another way to pass time and soon discovered how many benefits one could take advantage of while playing the game. It helped people destress, relax, and even take their mind off things helping their mood and, in some cases, even productivity.

20. Spider Solitaire & FreeCell

Without the release of Solitaire, other built-in games on Windows like Freecell would never have the popularity and respect they have today, as Solitaire made it possible for the world to see just how fun the single-player game can be. 

21. From Millions To Billions

As Solitaire didn’t cost anything extra (being part of Windows itself), the game was tried out by millions all over the globe who had just got desktops for their home and offices. Two decades later, Solitaire was shown to attract 35 million people every month, with over a billion people from 2010 to 2020. 

22. Changing The Norms

Back in the 80s, people used to carry around physical card decks to play with their friends and colleagues. This changed with the digital release of the game, as now you can just choose your preferred device and play Solitaire whenever and wherever you like. 

23. Setting Records In The Pandemic

Even when Covid-19 struck the world, Solitaire’s popularity didn’t stop, and people all over the world started to play their beloved game again as they were stuck at home and didn’t have much to do. This set surprising records for the game as more and more users challenged each other for high scores. 

24. Determining The Probability Of Winning

Since 1990, people all over the world have tried their luck when calculating the probability of winning Microsoft Solitaire, but nothing worked until the end of 2019, when the probability was finally determined. 

It was resolved by using a computer to beat a computer, similar to Alan Turing using a machine to break the enigma during the Second World War.

25. Origin Of The Name 

Last but not least, let’s talk about how Solitaire came to be called Solitaire. Despite being a word of French origin meaning “solitary person”, it wasn’t referenced as “Solitaire” at first. It was rather known as Patience in the United Kingdom and Kabale in Scandinavian countries of the time. It was only much later that the Solitaire name became widely popular.

All Things Considered

Solitaire has a long and rich history, with many famous historical figures and even modern leaders accrediting their love for this beloved game. Solitaire is simply one of the ‘funnest’ time-wasting card games for solo players out there. 

It teaches important skill sets and even lessons on life, depending on how willing you are to read between the lines. A fascinating, entertaining, and historic game that millions still enjoy on a daily basis.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.