To: Lee “Ben” Franklin Baldwin
From: Grandmother Carolyn Brent and Aunt Holly Baldwin
Date: July 15, 2007
Re: Provenance of the Family Heirloom Mahjong Set
Our family is pleased to pass on to your custody one of our favorite family heirlooms. This antique mahjong set was owned by your Great-Grandmother Emma Belle Baldwin. Your Grandfather Lawrence William Baldwin told his first wife Carolyn Brent, while they were married during the 1940s, his memories of the set.
As a small boy, his mother Emma Belle would invite her lady friends to her home at least once a week to play mahjong all afternoon. He was required to keep himself entertained and not interrupt while they played.
This was a major weekly event for Emma Belle, and probably coincides with the historical period in the early 1900s when mahjong was a popular craze in the United States.
Your Grandfather Baldwin married Verna Baldwin during the 1950s. They always kept this set in their home, both as a decoration and for casual play. Aunt Holly recalls trying to play the game with her older brothers when she was still too young to be able to understand the strategies and rules.
After your Grandfather Baldwin died, at his memorial, a display table was placed up front. The Pastor referred to it while he gave the Eulogy. This mahjong set was arranged on that table, along with the pink lady candy tin it had traditionally been stored in. Your Grandfather Baldwin’s beloved pith helmet, and a photograph of him with his wife Verna, was placed next to it.
We do not know when or how Emma Belle obtained this set. It appears to be made out of some type of bone, with bamboo backing. It might be made out of ivory, in which case it would be illegal to buy, sell or trade. In case it is ivory, it needs to be maintained as a family heirloom. (Ivory antiques may also be given to a museum.)
We hope you enjoy the intrinsic beauty of the set, as well as the family history. Perhaps you will even learn how to play the game, and share it for fun with friends and relatives.
With much love,