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The Early to Late History of Bowling

Updated on August 28, 2012

Bowling in Ancient Times

Bowling is considered one of the oldest sports still played world-wide. Bowling can be dated back to approximately 3200 BCE. In the 1930’s anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie found a primitive “bowling” set in a child’s grave. A child sized ball and pins were discovered in the grave, meaning some Egyptians were playing some form of bowling nearly 5000 years ago.

Bowling from Ancient to Modern Times

The next historical find dates back to 300 AD. William Pehle discovered evidence of bowling in Germany around 300 AD. England banned bowling in about 1366 as mandated by King Edward III. The game was taking too much time and energy away from archery practice for his troops. King Henry VIII made bowling legal again in England. At this point in history it is observed that several types or variations of bowling existed. They all involved some sort of ball and pins where the ball was hurled towards the pins.

There are several games that are variances of modern bowling including, but not limited to, Petanque, Bocce ball, Lawn bowling, and others. Modern bowling has strong roots in the United States dating back to the early 1800’s. Nine-pin bowling became very popular in the United States over the years, and became one of the biggest betting games in the country. In 1841 Connecticut banned all ninepin games, due to it causing lots of gambling. Due to many states issuing bans and outlawing nine-pin bowling, ten-pin bowling became popular. This loophole in the law allowed bowling and created bowling as it is today.

Modernization of Bowling

Bowling had varied rules and standards by region until 1895. In 1895 bowling was standardized when various regional bowling clubs came together and created the American Bowling Congress at Beethoven hall in New York City. There they set up standards of play and created rules for all bowling clubs to follow. However, the congress was a men’s club, and bowling was popular with women as well. In 1917 women set up their own bowling congress called The Women’s National Bowling Association. At this point bowling became widely popular across the nation due to the organized and agreed upon standards for both sexes.

During the early to middle 1900s many advances were seen in bowling technology. Balls were standardized from wood to a rubber compound. Pinboys were replaced with machines that automatically reset pins. In the 1950’s the media began to cover bowling. Starting with NBC having “Championship Bowling”, which was the first network coverage of bowling. Due to media’s embrace of bowling, bowling became even more popular. Bowling is now a modern form of entertainment enjoyed by many people around the world.

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    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 

      6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      It has been ages since last I have gone bowling. I scored in the low to mid 200's a few times when I was going somewhat regularly.

      Your hub has reminded me about how much enjoy bowling and perhaps I will go again soon.

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