West Bloomfield Township Public Library

The History of Mahjong

Presented by Jan Schimmelman, Professor Emerita of Art History at Oakland University and a collector of vintage mahjong sets. Learn about the early history of mahjong and the variety of mahjong sets produced during the early decades of the game. Mahjong was originally played as a card game in nineteenth-century China, then as a game using small tiles. In 1920, American businessman Joseph Babcock, who played the game in China, simplified and published its first rule book in English, thereby making the game accessible to a western audience. American companies, such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Mag Jongg Sales of America, began importing mahjong sets. By 1923 the game was all the rage. Soon celluloid and French Ivory sets competed with the original materials of bone and bamboo. Although many devotees of the game faded after 1929, it was still popular within the Jewish community, and in 1937 they established the first mahjong organization, the National Mah Jongg League. It still is a social game today, one made even more enjoyable by playing with vintage sets.

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The History of Mahjong

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West Bloomfield, MI 48323

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Westacres Branch
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West Bloomfield, MI 48324

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