Together with Snap, Donkey and Old Maid, Happy Families is a classic children’s card game. Its roots may lie in the United States in a game called The Game of Trades, published by W. & S. B. Ives in the mid-19th century. This game had a set of eight picture cards featuring various professions such as Tailor and Carpenter with 40 further cards showing the symbols of these trades (five of each). As with Happy Families, the objective of the game was to collect sets.

In England, Happy Families is usually credited to John Jaques & Son Ltd., a well known London maker and publisher of games particularly in the 19th century. The company published both Happy Families and Snap in the 1860s. The original characters were drawn by Sir John Tenniel, who was best known for his illustrations of the Alice books by Lewis Carroll.

The rules are simple. There are 44 cards divided into 11 sets of four. Each set has a Mr, Mrs, Master and Miss of a particular trade with an appropriate name – Bun the Baker, Soot the Sweep, Tape the Tailor, Bones the Butcher, Bung the Brewer. The aim is to collect complete sets by requesting cards from the other players. Either one receives or forfeits a card on each turn. A player’s turn lasts for as long as they are receiving cards. The winner is the person who collects the most sets.