13. Sociable Bridge: It’s just right for today’s economy

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Historians credit the depression of 1929, at least in part, responsible for the speed with which contract bridge grew after its “invention” by Vanderbilt. People at all levels were broke and looking for a low-cost pleasure to take their minds off the economy. We’re in that same boat today pretty much.

Back in 1929, the stock market crash and the launching of Bridge World magazine by Ely Culbertson happened within a month. Oh, that today’s bridge establishment would have capitalized on the historic parallels when, in 2008, we had today’s version of that 1929 stock market crash! There was even a bridge story to tag onto at the time about the Bear Stearns executive who played bridge while his company went down. Shouldn’t someone in the bridge establishment have had the imagination to turn all that into a nostalgia piece for the Wall Street Journal?

In 1929, contract bridge became the new low-cost way of entertaining that was shared across class and income levels, middle and upper class alike. Leila Hattersley was the bridge teacher to high society and was quoted in the Chicago Herald-Examiner saying, “In New York, elaborate balls have gone out of vogue and bridge has taken their place.”

Ely Culbertson and women’s magazines turned contract bridge into a desirable social skill–being able to emulate bridge parties of the upper classes on a middle or low class income. And it happened without TV or Facebook, turning bridge into one of the major fads of the 20th century.

Because we have no Ely Culbertson this could not–did not–happen in 2008. Which is how come we need, I say, a friends of bridge organization or sub-division of the ACBL, with perhaps Warren Buffett lending his name to it as proposed in an earlier blog.

I just read some place that Mark Zuckerberg–yes, THE Facebook Zuckerberg–plays bridge. Can’t somebody out there get HIM to be the patron saint of bridge if my suggestion for a Buffett’s Bridge Boosters falls on deaf ears?

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