Whist you were here…

>I’ve mentioned before that we have a collection of books on the game of whist (see http://www.pagat.com/whist/whist.html for a nice description of the game and its antecedents). I have no particular interest in the game as a game, but it’s fascinating to me to read these as social history.

In this first item (Whist Faces, ca. 1899, only two copies recorded), in the first section entitled “How to Learn the Game of Whist,” we are given little nuggets of wisdom which were obviously meant to apply universally. We are told that “the first thing to do is to begin with a firm resolution that you will master the game. A good purpose carries one more than half way in the accomplishment of any object.” And later, “Train your mind to act quicky. Thought is a habit and is good or bad as you cultivate or neglect it.” Finally (and my personal favorite), “Do not forget that you have a mind, and above all do not forget that it is for use.”
This second item (The Golden Rules of Whist “in a Nutshell,” Buffalo, 1886), actually contains rhyming rules, which sound like doggerel that Yoda might compose:

If you the modern game of whist would know / From this great principle its precepts flow / Treat your own hand as in your partner’s joined / And play, not one alone, but both combined.

The last item was printed right here in Providence (1901) on Westminster Street. What I like about this one has nothing to do with whist–it’s the advertisements. In this little book are ads for haberdashers, wall paper, office furniture, opticians, life insurance, perfumes, jewelry, tobacco, and (again, my favorite) Turkish baths. Yes! Oscar R. Lundin’s “Turkish and Russian Baths,” in the Banigan building on Exchange Street, was open to ladies (weekdays 9-1 and Sundays 1-7) and gentlemen (weekdays 1 to 8:00 the following morning! and Sundays until 1pm and after 7pm). This place offered “massage and Swedish gymnastics” (I’m laughing, I swear) “given at the Bath or at patient’s home, at the advice of their physicians, by attendants holding first class diplomas.” I wonder who issued those diplomas?

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