Mahjong: An Ancient Chinese Game that Became a Roaring Twenties Fad

By | January 10, 2019

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Beach and bathing scenes American women playing mah-jongg in the water - 1924 - Vintage property of ullstein bild. Source: (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

The 1920s saw the rise of several entertainment fads. Radio and magazines with national distribution helped to introduce fad trends to the farthest reaches of the United States. One such fad, however, traces its origins to faraway China and its roots go back several centuries. The ancient Chinese game of Mahjong swept through the U.S. in the twenties and spawned an interesting all things Chinese. 

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The first Abercrombie & Fitch store. Source: (

The First Mahjong Games in the U.S. were sold by Abercrombie & Finch

Yes, that's Abercrombie & Fitch! The retailer and outfitter, which was founded in 1892, sold imported mahjong tile sets beginning in 1920 from its stores in New York City and elsewhere. When the mahjong craze took off, the retailer couldn’t keep the game on the store shelves. The company’s co-owner, Ezra Fitch, sent buyers to remote Chinese villages to buy up every mahjong game they could find to send back to Abercrombie & Fitch.