7-3. Ladies Bridge Lunch: Battle of the bridges in the 1930s–auction vs contract

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It is not clear to me if the battle over playing auction or contract was a problem for ladies bridge lunch clubs. In their typical peaceable way, they probably took a vote or eased into the new game. Or one forward-thinking member pushed them into it.

On the other hand, Ely Culbertson wrote that it was the men who resisted the new game and women who dragged them “kicking and screaming” into contract bridge.

I did find a humorous note in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil about that exclusive bridge club in Savannah. Even in the 1990s, a hundred years after the founding of that club in the 1890s, there existed one table of whist–four diehards who insisted upon playing the card game the club started with.

It was the evening bridge games–couples bridge with dinner– where the battle of the bridges seemed to take place according to the paper trail I found.  Hostesses would be faced with “Happy dinner guests breaking into peevish fours” of traditionalist auction players and those who wanted to move on to contract according to one newspaper article.

Lutes writes about it in Bridge Food for Bridge Fans. Introducing a series of themed menus for each month, she indicates they are intended for auction players:

“The man who plays Contract for two or three hours for all he’s worth . . . cannot
be expected to digest as can the man who sits through a sociable evening of Auction.”

She suggests when you invite “hard-boiled” contract players to invite them for dessert–let them eat dinner at home. Or warn them, that her menus are for “good old reliable” auction players–contract players eat at their own risk.

The Ladies Home Journal solution offered in 1932 was the Bridgometer. They gave instructions for a cut-out in the magazine to assemble. The Journal promised that using the Bridgometer, auction players could learn to play a decent game of contract in an hour.

The message was to guests who resisted playing contract, give them the Bridgometer and tell them to get with the program! Contract is the game we play now.

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