The History of Bowling

History of BowlingThe History of Bowling can be traced back to the 3rd century.

The sport of bowling was said to have originated in the German church. Frequently parishioners set up a Kegel (a type of club) to represent a sinner, and then roll a rock into it in an effort to knock it down. If a parishioner knocked the Kegel over, then the sinner was without sin. The game eventually moved from the church and into a popular sport among the general population. A a ball made of wood replaced the stone, and pins were used instead of the Kegel. In the Middle Ages, bowling was played throughout Germany, and many events incorporated the sport. In due course the sport expanded from Germany and onto Austria, Spain, Switzerland, and other countries. The game, which was up to that time played outdoors, was also moved indoors, into covered sheds with (bowling) lanes made of wood or sunbaked clay.

Bowling was brought to America by Dutch colonists in the 17th century. The game then consisted of nine pins set in a triangle. The game was most frequently played in an area of New York that is now known as Bowling Green. The sport of bowling was mainly associated with taverns and inns. The game of ninepins was prohibited in Connecticut in 1841 because of pervasive gambling, and shortly banned in many other states. Some think that the current ten pin game was developed to get around the laws in opposition to ninepins. Indoor bowling became fashionable in the mid-nineteenth century following the introduction of indoor lanes in New York.

In 1875, eleven New York clubs met to design the rules of bowling and standardization of equipment. Even though fundamental rules could be settled upon, there was no agreement on the width of the lane or the size of bowling pin. The American Bowling Congress (ABC) was created at Beethoven Hall in 1895. The score system was established for 300, and the space between pins was set at 12 inches. In the beginning only New York City, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Buffalo, N.Y. were represented, but the next year Cincinnati, Boston, and Lowell, Mass. were represented. Ernest Fosberg of Rockford, Ill. was the first man to obtain a score of 300 in five-man league play. The next year E.D. Peifer inaugurated a handicap system for bowling; formerly the competition was on an actual score basis.

The first hard rubber ball was developed in 1906, and the greatest ball weight was adjusted to 16 pounds. Up to this point bowling balls had been made of hardwood. The sport and history of bowling gained more status in 1920 as Prohibition led to increases in the game. In 1939, it was established that all lanes should go through an annual inspection and certification prior to players being allowed to play on them. The National Negro Bowling Association was also founded in the year of 1939. From 1941-1945 the game of bowling grew even more as World War II greatly impacted the sport. Forty-five hundred bowling alley beds were built by the military as a resource of recreation.

In 1948 Brunswick introduced the dots and arrow markers to their lanes, which significantly enhanced accuracy for many bowlers. The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) was founded by Eddie Elias in 1958. The PBA originally had 33 charter members. The PBA featured three or four tournaments on the PBA tour, but the number of tournaments grew rapidly in the 1960s, which could be ascribed to the influence of television. The “stepladder” format was formed in order to fit tournaments into TV time slots. The competitors in the tournaments begin by rolling a series of qualifying games with the top five finishers advancing into the stepladder round. Fourth and fifth place qualifiers must bowl a match, with the winner advancing to bowl against the third-place qualifier. This process continues up the stepladder, until the survivor meets the first-place qualifier in the final match.

And that is a quick history of bowling.

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