Show Low Card Game Monument – Show Low, Arizona - Atlas Obscura

Show Low Card Game Monument

Show Low, Arizona

A monument commemorating how a frontier town got its unusual name. 


Show Low is a scenic town located in the White Mountains of Arizona. Though it is near lots of outdoor recreation in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and a ski resort, Show Low is perhaps more famous for the curious story of how the town got its name.

In the 1870s, settlers Corydon Cooley and Marion Clark became partners in a 100,000-acre ranch. They got along well and for several years they each prospered in their business. Their ranch on the Mogollon Rim of the Colorado Plateau was in a verdant forest and received much more precipitation than the low desert that Arizona is more known for, so their ranching endeavors went fairly smoothly. But they were ambitious men, and 100,000 acres was mutually determined to be not enough space for each of their planned activities. Neither could afford to outright purchase the other’s share in the ranch.

Instead of settling the matter in a more cliché Old West way, like a duel at high noon, the two business partners decided to wager their share of the ranch on a game of cards. The two met at Cooley’s kitchen table one evening in 1876. The game they played was called Seven Up, a variation of the British card game All Fours that was the most popular card game in the United States until poker soon usurped that title.

There are different stories told of how their card game went, in some the game went on for hours with no end in sight, in others Cooley was close to winning and Clark made his next offer as a desperate gambit. The stories all end the same way though—Clark, holding a three in his hand, challenged Cooley that whoever showed low would win the game. Cooley agreed and revealed a two of clubs, winning the ranch.

Corydon Cooley subsequently renamed the property Show Low Ranch to commemorate how he came to have sole ownership. When a town sprung up around the ranch buildings, the name came with it. Marion Clark amicably packed his things and started another ranching operation nearby. To this day, the main street through downtown Show Low is named Deuce of Clubs. Additionally, it’s written in the town charter that if competing candidates for position of mayor of Show Low receive so close a vote total to necessitate a run-off, instead the position is determined by the two sitting down with a deck of cards, alternating drawing cards. The first to draw the two of clubs becomes mayor.

Know Before You Go

The monument is in a small park off Deuce of Clubs in downtown Show Low. The hill to the south of the monument, where a church now stands, was the site of Corydon Cooley's home where the card game was played.

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