The History Of Bowling (Part 2)

While it is uncertain when the game of tenpin bowling evolved, it was prevalent in many states such as New York, Ohio and as far ‘west’ as Illinois by the late 1980’s. However, details like ball weights and pin dimensions varied by regions.

In 1875, eleven bowling clubs came together to standardize the rules. Yet, it would be another 20 years before this became a reality. Restauranteur Joe Thum finally managed to pull together representatives of the various bowling clubs. On September 9, 1895, at Beethoven Hall in New York City, the American Bowling Congress was born.  Standardization was established and major national competitions could be held.

While women had been bowling since the later half of the nineteenth century, the American Bowling Congress was for men. It was only in 1917 that the Women’s International Bowling Congress was born in St. Louis. Encouraged by this development, women leaders from around the country participating in tournaments, decided to form what was then called the ‘Women’s National Bowling Association’.

Bowling technology took a big step forward about the same time. Balls were primarily lignum vitae, a very hard wood. In 1905, the first rubber ball, the ‘Evertrue’ was introduced. In 1914, Brunswick Corporation successfully promoted the Mineralite ball, touting its ‘mysterious rubber compound’.

Now organized with agreed upon standards, the game grew in popularity. In 1951, another technological breakthrough set the stage for massive growth. American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF, then a maker of machinery for the bakery, tobacco and apparel businesses) purchased the patents to Gottfried Schmidt’s automatic pinspotter, and by late 1952, production model pinspotters were introduced. A proprietor no longer needed to rely on ‘pinboys’.

Television embraced bowling in the 1950’s. The game’s popularity grew exponentially. NBC’s broadcast of ‘Championship Bowling’ was the first network coverage of bowling. Coverage proliferated with shows like ‘Make That Spare’, ‘Celebrity Bowling’, and ‘Bowling For Dollars’. In 1961, ABC became the first network to telecast competition of the Pro Bowlers Association.

Eddie Elias, a successful promoter, agent and entrepreneur, founded the PBA. Under his leadership, the Pro Bowlers Tour became a hugely popular stalwart of ABC sports broadcasting. With telecasts of the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour (now the Professional Women’s Bowling Association, PWBA), millions of Americans witnessed and became interested in the sport.

The World Tenpin Bowling Association (WTBA) governs the sport of tenpin bowling throughout the world. There are over 100 million bowlers of whom over 10 million regularly take part in tournaments, leagues and championships.

(Sourced primarily from the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum)

Till the next post, happy bowling!



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