Written by Howard Fosdick © BestFreeNewGames.com
Robert Frederick (R.F.) Foster went from gold prospecting to being the dominant writer on games in America. Say what?
Born in Scotland in 1853, R.F. Foster immigrated to the United States at an early age. Upon maturity he worked in a wide variety of jobs, including gold prospecting and lecturing on Pelmanism. He finally settled on writing about games, especially card games.
He wrote dozens of books on card games in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His books dominated in the U.S. between 1880 and the 1930s. They covered every imaginable card game: euchre, poker, rummy, bridge, whist and many more. Foster wrote on other games too, such as Mah Jong, dice, and dominoes. You can still find many of these excellent works at used bookstores, often sold for a pittance as obsolete items.
Since the books are out of copyright, many are posted in their entirety on the internet: you can download them for free. Some I've found include his books on Conquian (an early form of Rummy), Pirate Bridge (a three-person variant), and of course his famous Hoyle.
Foster’s great achievement was his Hoyle, first published in 1897. At over 625 pages it covered every card game of its day and makes a fascinating historical study. You can see how games have evolved in the past century. This masterpiece was published continually until at least the 1950s, and just the other day I saw a new reprint available. It’s a fun, comprehensive reference work, even if some the games have changed. Every gamester should have a copy (digital or print).
R. F. Foster died in 1945 at the age of 92. Though he was one of the grand old men of cards, few attended his funeral ...he had outlived all his contemporaries.