COMMENTS ABOUT THE CHRISTIANIA
CLUB -- CHIPS AND HISTORY
(AND PICTURE OF THE CLUB AT BOTTOM OF PAGE)
HOT-STAMPED "C" CHIP. The hot-stamped chips are particularly interesting. First, they were unknown till now (2005). They are surely Christiania chips as they were gotten, along with the crest and seal chips, at the Christiania Club building after the club closed for good (see more of this below). Second, they bear the distinctive small greek key rim mold design of the famous B. C. Wills and Co. gambling supply house, which was owned by the founder of the Christiania. Third, notice the unusual letter "C" with the flat bottom to the "C."
OVERVIEW: What makes The Christiania club poker/roulette chips so desirable are:
BRIEF HISTORY OF KETCHUM, IDAHO GAMBLING AND THE CHRISTIANIA: In 1880, the Town of Ketchum, named after David Ketchum, a trapper and guide, was one of the richest mining districts in the Northwest. By the early 1890's, the price of silver declined and the mining boom ended. And by 1936, with the slowdown in mining, there were only about 100 year-round residents in Ketchum. In January of '36, Count Felix Schaffgosch came into the valley. He had been hired by the Union Pacific Chairman, Averell Harriman, to find a "perfect spot" for a ski resort. It didn't take more than a couple of days for the Count to decide on this spot for the resort. He wired Harriman: "Among the many attractive spots I have visited, this combines the more delightful features of any place I have seen in the United States, Switzerland, or Austria for a winter ski resort." In less than a year, the luxurious Sun Valley Resort was completed and the doors were open to international publicity. The Sun Valley /Ketchum area was on the map. Among those who "fell in love" with Sun Valley were: Ernest Hemingway, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman and many others. It was here that Hemingway finished his book, "For Whom the Bell Tolls."
In the early 1930s, Idaho allowed gambling, so long as it was approved at the local level, and Ketchum and some other communities legalized it. Because Union Pacific—the company that opened Sun Valley resort in 1936—did not allow gambling on the resort property, many of the resort’s guests made the one-mile trek to Ketchum for a hand at dice, roulette, slots, etc. The Christiania, Alpine, Sawtooth Club and Casino there all had gambling. The Christiania was named after a skiing term for the graceful turn and stop a skier would make at the completion of his descent. When turning, the skis are held in a parallel position, with the inner ski a little in front of the outer ski. The turn has been called the Christiania turn, or just Christi, since 1901 (when a set of rules for skiing was made) – it was so called because it was introduced in Christiana, Norway, (now Oslo) in 1868.) At the bottom of this description are two pictures of The Christiania club. In the background is Bald Mountain, famous for skiing.
Table gambling was outlawed in Idaho in 1949, and The Christiania closed. (Slot machines and all other forms of gambling were outlawed in 1953. Friday evening poker games continued at places through the mid-1980s (legally?)). In disrepair for many years, the building was recently demolished. So, no more The Christiania gambling club, but there is in Ketchum today many places named after the celebrated gambling house, such as Best Western Christiania Lodge and Michel's Christiania Restaurant.
The person I bought these chips from lived in the Sun Valley area. He wrote me his recollections of those days: "I don't know how much you know of Sun Valley, but the resort was developed by the Union Pacific railroad when Averell Harriman was the young president of UP. He had a home just to the east of the main Lodge. When I was a young boy in the area during the ski season, you could see movie stars everyday on the slopes and in the businesses and clubs in Ketchum. The Christiania Club building may have been empty between the time gambling ended and till Chuck Ackinson took it over in 1955 or 56 and converted the building into the largest supermarket in the area. I asked Chuck if I could have some chips [both the crest and seal, and the hot-stamped chips], and he said OK. After Ackison moved his supermarket out of the Christiania building, the old-time movie star Ann Sothern had a ladies dress shop in the front dining room for years. [She died in Ketchum in 2001.] Chuck was Ernest Hemingway's business manager, and I believe it was Chuck that Hemingway's wife called when he committed suicide."
(Some sources for this write-up: http://www.ci.ketchum.id.us/ketchum_history.asp,
http://www.usacitiesonline.com/idcountyketchum.htm#history, and http://www.svguide.com/s04/s04_casinoclub.htm