Gallery 6. French.


Production of Mahjong sets in France started at the same time as the craze hit the USA, it was very likely already known about, as it had been introduced in Germany. I think that the Babcock spelling was adopted by many firms, more as a ‘thumbing the nose’ at Babcock’s failed attempt to copyright the game than any conviction that this was the correct spelling.

As with Britain, France was cash-strapped just post WWI, with very little spare money for expensive Chinese imports, so copies were made in French factories and sets only imported from China for the high-end range.

Sets were made from materials the French were very familiar with:- Casein, Ebonite, Celluloid/French Ivory, and of course Wood and Carton. But French sets are, to my mind, a cut above the British sets, both in style of boxes and tile design.

The list is not comprehensive – only the companies’ sets that I have heard of or possess.

Arkmel:- They made cheaper sets almost exclusively from local materials like Wood and Carton, with very interesting and novel designs. Being cheap, they were often used as advertising give-aways.

AM & Cie:- A later post-WWII maker producing cheap sets of 2-tone polystyrene.

Bornemann:- They were more towards the high-end, with Casein sets in nicely-made boxes, but also making Wooden sets based on Chad Valley designs. I can’t be sure, but I think they also imported Chinese Bone & Bamboo sets.

Galeries Lafayette:- Normally only marketed good quality Wooden or Wood/Celluloid Mahjong sets in a very distinctive colour palette, but I have a Casein set in a Burr Walnut box which is above the norm.

Imperial:- This company made high quality sets from Ebonite in only 2 styles that I know of.

Jeu des Dragons:- The name adopted by Les Jeux Reunis (United Games) whose logo is a star of David – Jewish? – with Marque Fabrique (Trade Mark) JLR Paris inside. They made very desirable, excellent quality low-end sets in Wood, Wood/Celluloid and Carton.

Lung-Chan:- They made (or imported) high-end sets in good quality boxes.

Maison de la Jeunesse(Youth House):-  This company made a very quirky Carton set, in only one style.

Miro:– Made a modern modified version of the game in carton.

MLJ(Manufacture Lyonnaise de Jouets (Games)):- Made only one style in wood, as far as I know.

Unknown:– There are a few other makers who didn’t sign their boxes, but are almost certainly French.

The French were very fond of mini Bone & Bamboo sets which were imported from China, almost exclusively for the French market, as I’ve seen only a few other Austro-German examples…