The History of Ten Pin Bowling – Part 1

The very earliest evidence to pinpoint the history of bowling is large stone and pottery skittles, and primitive bowling balls, found in 1930 by some archaeologists in an Egyptian’s grave that dates back to around 3200 BCE. Further, South Sea Islanders played what they called ‘ula maika’ in antiquity, a game not unlike skittles. The players bowled stones the length of modern lanes, around 60 feet.

The History of Ten Pin Bowling – Part 1

A game of bowing called Kegein was played in Germany in the third century when they played with pins or ‘kegels’. The games took place in monastery and church cloisters by both clerics and worshippers. Even Martin Luther played the game in the 16th century when he essentially standardised the number of pins as nine, so essentially inventing the nine-pin game. The pins were placed in the shape of a diamond, with the pin in the middles being the tallest.

 

Bowling goes abroad

The game spread to other countries, including 13th-century England when it was called kayles. Bowling was banned by Edward 111 in 1366 due to young men failing to attend archery price in favour of the game with the pins. Other kings took the same stance as a result of bowling becoming popular in gambling circles. Aristocrats and royals also enjoyed playing the game, building alleys at mansions and palaces. The very first bowling alley built indoors was in London in 1455. Henry V111 allegedly used cannon balls to bowl with. Bishop John Aylmer from London bowled every Sunday afternoon. Francis Drake continued to bowl even after his men informed him that the Spanish Armada was on its way and in battle formation. He knocked down a few more pins before he took care of the Spaniards.

 

Bowling in the New World

In 1926, the Dutch brought the game to the New World at the lawn version of Manhattan Island. English, Dutch, and German migrants took the nine-pin game across the Atlantic. Puritans attempted to ban the game, although one of them confessed to liking the game in 1658 and bet £10 on a match that he reputedly won. Early in the 19th century, bowling became a popular sport in New York before making its way to other parts of the U.S. by the 1830’s. The first U.S. indoor centre was New York City’s Knickerbocker, which was opened in 1840. The game soon became identified with crime and gambling, however.

Bowling in the New World

An illegal game

A number of matches were fixed and there were some huge bets placed. Anyone refusing to participate to throw a game or to take part in a rigged match at all was probably going to get beaten up. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York categorised bowling as a gambling activity, so it was therefore illegal to play in those states. In 1941, Connecticut passed a law that banned the nine-pin game. A rumour goes that players added another pin to help them get around the law, which was the introduction of ten-pin bowling. It’s worth noting, however, that English borrowers were depicted using ten pins in triangular formation in a painting from1810 at the the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum.

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