HISTORY OF BOWLING
Bowling is one of the oldest and most widely played of the world’s games.
Its history has been traced back to the Stone Age, to the Egyptians,
Romans, and right up to today’s modern bowling centers. Chances are that
the caveman’s idea of bowling was to roll or throw a round stone at other
stones or possibly logs.
The earliest record of bowling goes back 7000 years to ancient Egypt where
a round object, resembling a bowling ball, and marble bars, resembling
bowling pins, were found in the ruins of a pyramid. From Egypt, bowling
moved to ancient Babylonia and then to Northern Italy around Julius
Caesar’s time. The Italian version of bowling, bocce, which is still
played today, is somewhat similar to lawn bowling – an English game
originating over 800 years ago. The English also played other games which
can be considered variations of bowling – such as half-bowls, skittles, and
The form of bowling we play today, bowling at pins, was first mentioned in
a book about the city of London, England, written over 800 years ago. In
those days, bowling was strictly an outdoor game. The first indoor bowling
took place in London as far back as 1455. It was a popular game reserved
mainly for the nobility. In Germany, the name of the game was KEGLING –
and the participants were known as “KEGLERS”.
Bowling came to America with the first Dutch settlers. And of course,
Washington Irving wrote about bowling in his famous story about Rip Van
Winkle. Through the years, the game changes continually.
In Europe, it was played with 9 pins. Then, after its introduction in
America, a tenth pin was added – which is still the way it is played
today. The tenth pin was added, according to popular legend, to circumvent
a ruling in the 1840’s by the Connecticut Legislature which outlawed nine-
pins because of widespread gambling in the game.
The most significant technological advancement in the game of bowling was
the introduction of the automatic pinspotter in the 1940’s. This amazing
machine revolutionized the bowling industry and brought bowling into the
modern era. Since then, bowling has continued to advance with the
introduction of “bumpers’, devices that are placed in the gutter lanes to
prevent gutter balls for small children. Many bowling centers in the mid
1990’s offered Galactic Bowling, bowling with black lighting, pins that
glow in the dark, and special effects lighting and music.
(The addition of automatic, electronic scoring has also simplified the game
for those who found the “bonus pin” system of scoring difficult to
Today, one out of every three Americans bowl – over 72 million men, women
and children. Who knows what the 21st Century hold for bowling.
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