Reported Origin of Texas 42, A Game of Dominos

Christopher Evans, a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, authored an article in August 1985 that indicates the game of 42 originated in Garner, Texas in 1887.

Garner is a small Texas town located west of Fort Worth.  According to Evans, before its name was changed, it was called Trappe Spring.  It was there that two boys, William A. Thomas and Walter Earl, reportedly "invented" the domino game 42.

Evans reported that Thomas, 12, and Earl, 14, children of devout Baptists, were caught playing cards in the hayloft of a barn.  Playing cards was considered sinful in those days, and the boys were disciplined for their indiscretion.

Well, necessity breeds invention and, according to Evans, the two boys set out to find a way to play cards using dominos.  By the fall of 1887, they had devised a four-player game using double-six dominos that incorporated bidding and trumps, very similar to the game of 42 played in Texas today.

Since domino playing was acceptable to their parents and other residents of Trappe Spring, Thomas and Earl began teaching others how to play the game. The game caught on and spread from there. The Earl and Thomas families later moved to Windom in Fannin County (north-northeast of Dallas), and the game reportedly spread from there, too.

According to Evans, William Thomas told the story about his co-inventing the game in a 1927 interview with the Dallas Journal newspaper.  Thomas died in 1946.

1.  In 1997, Dennis Roberson authored and published a book on the game of 42.  In his book, Roberson cites the 1985 Star-Telegram article as the source for the reported origin of 42. He also mentions a 1977 book titled Dominos Texas Style that attributes the game of 42 to W. A. Thomas.
2.  See also Q/A30 for more info and links to other stories about the origin of 42; also the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) article on 42.
3.  See also a 1915 newspaper article that states 42 originated in Mineral Wells, Texas (added 11 Jan 2017).
4.  If you have a hand-me-down letter dated in the 1800s or some other writing(s) by a deceased person that mentions the game 42 (or forty-two) in its content, please send with description.
5.  Evolution of Texas 42 (added 9 Jul 2018).

• Evans, Christopher. "Texas 42 was in the cards." Fort Wort Star-Telegram 3 Aug 1985.
• Roberson, Dennis. Winning 42. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1997.


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