TooSquare Magazine

History Of Bowling

Bowling, the sport of the middle class. Played in nostalgic 50’s era mod lanes, or in blacklit, neon modern mega-complexes bowling is now the past time of friends and families all across america. It has been a game enjoyed by many, since its inception in 5200bc by the Egyptians to its use as a religious worship by Germanic monks in 200ad, bowling has had quite a past.

The actual first recorded enclosed ‘bowling center’ was built in London around 1455, but bowling ‘greens’ were being built on the lawns of nobility in Europe since the 1300’s. This original enclosed

center was used by common-folk as a gathering place, to drink and enjoy the game of ‘nine-pins’ ( it was originally called ‘kegels’ ). These enclosed centers spread to other majoy towns in England throughout the next 10 years. The big problem was that the nobility never seem to like commoners to ‘gather’ together in one spot too long, and in 1465 Edward the IV made an edict forbidding ‘hustling of stones’ ( the slang term at the time ) and any other bowling like sport. This took its toll on the sport in England for the next 20 years or so. But the sport again started taking off and gained popularity once again…of course this couldnt last, in 1555 all bowling centers in England were closed, considered ‘places of unlawful assembly’.

In 1611 Captain James Smith is returning to the colony at JamesTown in Virginia to find the colonists, starving and out of food, but happily spending their time bowling. This he finds offensive as the colonists should be working, and the sport is declared illegal and punishable by three weeks in the stocks. The sport although suffering from illegality in many places flourishes in others. The dutch are bowling away in their American colonies around 1625.

The sport again takes its hold on England and becomes widely popular, with new bowling centers opening once again. It becomes a gamblers favorite and many people begin losing their days pay to shady rules, and bowling hustlers. One of the biggest gamblers of the time ( a compulsive gambler ) is King Charles of England. He takes the game, standardizes the rules ( ball sizes, pin sizes, etc ) to make it more competitive and to even the odds out. At this point everyone is still playing the favorite ‘nine pins’.

The sport continues to grow world wide, but especially takes a hold of the United States. The main problem is that by 1840 almost every place to bowl is located next to a tavern ( i gues taverns like to build small lanes to attract customers ) in its ‘alley’…This seems to be the origin of the name ‘bowling alley’. Well drinking, and the good people of the USA just dont mix, in 1870 ‘nine pin’ bowling is banned due to its association with crime and gambling, fortunately for the rest of us there worded the law quite maticulously and a nice fellow brings about ‘ten-pin bowling’. The sport continues to flourish.

In 1895 the American Bowling Congress is formed, and the sport moves on through history. In 1916 the Womens International Congress forms, and everything stays quiet until about 1950 when the first automatic pin setting machine is invented. This causes bowling to gain mass appeal. During this same time, Capezio introduces a line of bowling shoes with advertisements showing upper class ladies bowling.

In 1961 the number of bowling alleys in the US jumps from around 6500 to 10000, at this same time the average neck size per pin is increased make the average pin weigh 7/10 more ounces than previously. By 1963 Americans are spending around 44 million dollars a year on bowling balls and the equipment. The sport continues to grow in popularity to its current day estimates ( by the A.B.C ) to around 50 million bowlers in the USA alone.

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