Dorothy Rice Sims

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Dorothy Rice Sims
Dorothy Rice Sims in 1916
Dorothy Rice Sims in 1916
Born(1889-06-24)June 24, 1889
DiedMarch 24, 1960(1960-03-24) (aged 70)

Dorothy Rice Sims (June 24, 1889 – March 24, 1960)[1][2] was an American sportswoman, aviator, bridge player, artist, and journalist.


Born in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on June 24, 1889,[1] Sims was one of six children of Julia (née Barnett) and Isaac Rice,[3] a businessman (or corporation lawyer)[4] who founded the Electric Boat Company[5] (producer of submarines for the US Navy and others). Her younger sister Marion (1891–1990, Marion Rice Hart) also became famous as an aviator and sportswoman. ("Before her flying career, Mrs. Hart had captained a 72-foot ketch around the world, most of the way alone.")[4] Their mother Julia B. Rice founded the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noises in New York City.[5]

Father Isaac Rice was born in Bavaria and raised in Philadelphia. He was also a musician and musicologist, chess player and patron. Dorothy and Marion were the second and fourth of six children, the second and third of four daughters.

According to the cultural historian Hillel Schwartz, as paraphrased by a New Yorker journalist:

"In 1903, Isaac Rice and his wife and intellectual partner, Julia Barnett Rice—both accomplished musicians—sought to escape noisy Broadway. They built a four-story mansion on the tree-lined drive, then a place replete with coaches and foreign servants, and largely free from cars. Julia had a medical degree; Isaac, an industrialist, invested in things like air compressors, submarines, and the 'pickled energy' that powered electric vehicles."

Julia Rice's campaign resulted in a federal law "quieting the whistles of ships in federal waters".[6]

Early years[edit]

"The careers of the six Rice children attracted considerable attention in New York, because their parents encouraged them to stifle their inhibitions."[7] Dorothy Rice left school at twelve, she recalled in her 1940 memoir Curiouser and Curiouser, seeing "no point in clogging my mind with things that everyone knew"; her father was pleased rather than vexed. Later she studied sculpture and painting in Paris.[8]

As a young woman she was a motorcycle street racer[9] riding a blue Indian [10] and became the first amateur licensed woman pilot in the United States,[8] training at Wright School, Mineola, New York, in 1916).[2][11][12]

Her first husband was the artist Waldo Peirce. She met Peirce through a mutual friend, George Biddle, and wrote in her 1938 autobiography, Curiouser and Curiouser, "I inquired Waldo’s height—he was six feet two. This seemed a dignified height. I told George to produce Waldo, which he did. We got married in Madrid, in a German Methodist Church, with the American vice-consul, who was a Filipino, to make it legal.” [13]

A website using the name Mile High Club regards the "Club's" "founder" as pilot and design engineer Lawrence Sperry[14] as the "Club's" "founder", along with "socialite Mrs. Waldo Peirce" (Dorothy Rice Sims)[15] citing their flight in an autopilot-equipped Curtiss Flying Boat near New York in November 1916.[16][17][18]

"Why, Mrs Peirce and I didn’t have what you might dignify by calling a real accident. It was only a trivial mishap. We decided to land on the water and came down perfectly from a height of 600 feet and would have made a perfect landing had not the hull of our machine struck one of the stakes that dot the water, which staved a hole in it."[19]

The New York Times reported on October 16, 1917, that Dorothy Rice Peirce "seeks divorce; ... alleges non-support and cruelty".[12][20]

She met Hal Sims when he chartered her plane; they later married. Their home in Deal, New Jersey, described in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle as reminiscent "of the castles of the feudal barons in medieval days"[8] became a headquarters for bridge experts.[7]


Sims was "an expert in motorcycle racing, flying and sculptoring, but her bridge ability was just moderate". She became a famous bridge player, however, as one of her expert husband's partners and for her frequent use of "psychic" bids, or "psyches" (bluffs); she is credited with having coined the term "psychic".[21][22][23][24] According to bridge player and writer, Albert Morehead, "She did not actually invent the psychic bid, though it is generally credited to her, but she did give it its name and she wrote the first and only book about it."[1][25][27]

Sims and Sims won the second annual (contract bridge) Master Mixed Teams tournament in 1930, evidently with two men as teammates. (Except 1930, the winners and runners-up apparently comprised two men and two women, presumably playing as mixed pairs.) They were runners-up in 1933.[28] In 1930 they were also runners-up in the second annual Board-a-Match Teams for the Chicago Trophy (now the Reisinger).

Sims and Sims faced Ely and Josephine Culbertson in a long rubber bridge match during March and April 1935 (Culbertson–Sims match). ["The Culbertsons won by 16,130 points in 150 rubbers."][7] After her death in 1960, New York Times bridge columnist Albert Hodges Morehead wrote that "bridge lost the last and most lovable of the greatest and most colorful foursome it ever knew.  ... These four took contract bridge ... and made it a world-wide habit. They accomplished this partly by design but more by the accident of their personalities." Dorothy was "delightfully naive and guilelessly outspoken. Each was a perfect foil for all three of the others."[25]

Morehead also observed that he (twenty years younger) "loved Dorothy devotedly".)[25] Morehead had been one of three substitute players available to the Culbertsons in the Culbertson–Sims match contested for three weeks beginning March 25, 1935.[29] His byline appeared on a weekly article covering bridge beginning November 3, 1935 (for the Vanderbilt Cup tournament) and he remained the bridge editor until succeeded by Alan Truscott in January 1964.

According to her obituary in the New York Herald Tribune, her trademark psychic bidding "was but another manifestation of an instinct for nonconformity ... developed in her during childhood."[7]

National championships

Sims was a winner or runner-up in "national" tournaments exclusively before the creation of the American Contract Bridge League by merger of competing organizations in 1937. Today the ACBL recognizes the following as her achievements in North American Bridge Championships-level competition.[30] Beside the limitation to first and second place it may be incomplete in the extent of contemporary competition for "national" titles.



  • Master Mixed Teams (1) 1933
  • Chicago Trophy (now the Reisinger) (1) 1930

The Master Mixed and Chicago were mixed and open teams-of-four tournaments inaugurated in 1929. On all three listed occasions Sims and Sims played as partners.[30] The inaugural, 1929 Mixed Teams runner-up is unknown.


After the death of P. Hal Sims in 1949, she traveled as a "political correspondent for various newspapers".[1]

She died of a heart attack on March 24, 1960, while in Cairo, Egypt.[2] "on the eve of her return home from a world tour"[7] She was survived by her four younger siblings.[7] Dorothy and her older sister Muriel (1888–1926) are buried in a family plot with their parents at Woodlawn Cemetery in Ocala, Florida.[11]


  • Sims, Dorothy Rice (1932). Psychic Bidding. New York: Vanguard Press. LCCN 32014125. OCLC 4311409.
  • Fog, Valentine Williams and Sims (Houghton Mifflin, 1933), 294 pp. – fiction, OCLC 27399416; translated and/or adapted into both French OCLC 458877472 and Spanish OCLC 803626452
  • Just Bridge, Ewart Kempson and Sims (London: 1935) – Practical handbook series, no. 29, OCLC 314510956
  • Curiouser and Curiouser, a Book in the Jugular Vein, illustrated by the author (Simon & Schuster, 1940) – autobiography; foreword by George S. Kaufman, 203 pp., LCCN 41-470, OCLC 1513442; backword by Grantland Rice
  • How to Live on a Hunch; or, the art of "psychic living" (Vanguard, 1944), 160 pp., LCCN 44-2913, OCLC 1526700 – "essays on people and events of her experience"[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "Dorothy Rice Sims". ACBL Bridge Beat 23. ACBL. February 22, 2012. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
      With photo.
  2. ^ a b c "Dorothy Rice Sims: –1960". Roster of Members, 1996. Early Birds of Aviation ( Archived 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
  3. ^ Craft, Virginia (January 13, 1975). "Flying in the Face of Age". Sports Illustrated. pp. 28 et seq. Archived from the original on 2011-06-03. Retrieved 2015-10-13.
  4. ^ a b Cook, Joan (July 4, 1990). "Marion R. Hart, 98; Made 7 Solo Flights Across the Atlantic". The New York Times. pp. A13. Retrieved 2009-09-05.
  5. ^ a b "Mrs. P. Hal Sims, 70, Bridge Star, Dead. Widow of Champion Also an Artist, Aviator. Fined as Motorcycle Speeder in '08". The New York Times. March 25, 1960. Page 27.
  6. ^ "The Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise". Peter Andrey Smith. The New Yorker. January 11, 2013. Retrieved 2014-11-18.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Mrs. P. Hal Sims Dies; Inventor of Psychic Bid". New York Herald Tribune. March 25, 1960. Page 12. "died yesterday in Cairo, Egypt, on the evening of her return home from a world tour."
  8. ^ a b c Shattuck, Florence. "Do Women Excel Men at Bridge?". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. May 14, 1933. Retrieved 2015-03-25. "Dorothy Rice Sims is the charming hostess who presides over the beautiful Sims estate at Deal, N.J., which reminds one of the castles of the feudal barons in medieval days."
  9. ^ "Girl on Motor Cycle Laughs at Speedy Police". The Evening World. New York. 28 November 1907. p. 2. Retrieved 2015-10-13 – via Thursday • First Edition open access publication – free to read
  10. ^ * Curiouser and Curiouser, a Book in the Jugular Vein, illustrated by the author (Simon & Schuster, 1940) – autobiography; foreword by George S. Kaufman, 203 pp., LCCN 41-470, OCLC 1513442; backword by Grantland Rice
  11. ^ a b "Dorothy Rice Sims". Find A Grave ( November 24, 2010. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
  12. ^ a b "Aviatrix Seeks Divorce; Mrs. Dorothy Rice Peirce Alleges Non-Support and Cruelty". The New York Times. October 16, 1917. Page 9.
      Payment required. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
  13. ^ Colin W. Sargent (September 2018). ""So Much More Than Waldo's Wives". Portland Magazine.
  14. ^ Sperry Inc. History Archived 2010-11-25 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2011-11-17.
  15. ^ About MHC: Founding Member Archived 2015-12-18 at the Wayback Machine.. (1997-10-13). Retrieved on 2011-11-17.
  16. ^ "FROM HER SICK BED PLANS NEW FLIGHTS; Mrs. Pierce(sic), in a Plaster Cast, Gives Orders to Have Her Aeroplane Ready. TELLS OF FALLING 800 FEET; Aviatrice Says it Was 'Very Funny' When She and Sperry Went Into the Water Off Babylon". The New York Times. New York, New York. November 28, 1916. p. 24. Although she fell 800 feet in a hydro-aeroplane and was held fast for more than a minute in mud and wreckage seven feet under water, and suffered a fracture of the pelvis and other injuries, Mrs. Waldo Pierce(sic), daughter of Mrs. Isaac L. Rice, donor of the $1,000,000 fund for the Isaac L. Rice Hospital for Convalescents, has no intention of giving up flying.
  17. ^ – The First at a "Mile-High"
  18. ^ John Baxter (10 February 2009). Carnal Knowledge: Baxter's Concise Encyclopedia of Modern Sex. HarperCollins. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-06-087434-6. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
  19. ^ – The First at a "Mile High"
  20. ^ "Perfect Woman Asks Divorce From Perfect Man, Proving Perfect Marriage a Failure (Bangor Maine)". The Tacoma Times. Tacoma, Washington. 10 November 1917. p. 1. Retrieved 2015-10-13 – via Saturday • First Edition open access publication – free to read
  21. ^ "Bridge" (untitled column). Alan Truscott. The New York Times. May 26, 1994. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
      The column is illustrated by a deal from the 1930s, featuring a "psychic" bid by Mrs. Sims. The linked archive copy ( does not include the crucial diagram.
  22. ^ "Bridge" (untitled column). Alan Truscott. The New York Times. August 23, 1997. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
      The linked archive copy does not include the crucial diagram of a recent deal featuring David Berah.
  23. ^ "BRIDGE; The Treachery That Lurks In Psychic Bidders' Hearts". Alan Truscott. The New York Times. April 15, 2000. Retrieved 2014-11-16.
      The linked archive copy does not include the crucial diagram of a deal featuring David Berah in the 1964 South American Championships (team Venezuela).
  24. ^ Tim, Bourke; Sugden, John (2010). Bridge Books in English from 1886-2010: an annotated bibliography. Cheltenham, England: Bridge Book Buffs. p. 387. ISBN 978-0-9566576-0-2.
  25. ^ a b c "Contract Bridge: Bridge Loses Last of Its Most Colorful Foursome, Dorothy Rice Sims". Albert Hodges Morehead. The New York Times. March 26, 1960. Page 18.
  26. ^ Vanderbilt, Harold S. (July 1929). Contract Bridge: Bidding and the Club Convention. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 143–144. ASIN B000857ZZU.
  27. ^ Harold S. Vanderbilt refers to "bluff bidding", one type of psychic bidding, in his 1929 book Contract Bridge.[26]
  28. ^ "NABC Winners: Mixed BAM Teams". Retrieved 2015-02-02.
  29. ^ "Bridge Stage Set for Experts' Test". The New York Times. March 24, 1935. Page N1.
  30. ^ a b "NABC Winners by Name: Dorothy Rice Sims". Retrieved 2015-02-03.

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