A Brief History of Bowling

Bowling history can be traced back to the 3rd century. The game of bowling was said to have originated in the German church. It was common for parishioners to set up a Kegel (club) representing a sinner, and then roll a stone in an attempt to knock it over. If the parishioner knocks the Kegel over, then the sinner is free of sin.

The game eventually moved from the church and into a popular sport among the common people.

A wooden ball replaced the stone, and pins were used in place of the Kegel.

In the Middle Ages, the sport of bowling was seen throughout Germany, and many events included the sport.

Eventually the sport spread from Germany and onto Austria, Spain, Switzerland, and the Low Countries.

The game, which was previously played outdoors, was also moved indoors, into covered sheds with lanes made of wood or sunbaked clay.

Dutch colonists brought the game of bowling to America in the 17th century. The colonist's game consisted of nine pins set in a triangle. The game was most common in an area of New York that is now known as Bowling Green. The sport of bowling was primarily associated with inns and taverns.

The game of ninepins was banned in Connecticut in 1841 because of widespread gambling, and later banned in many other states. Some believe that the modern tenpins game was developed to circumvent the laws against ninepins.

Indoor bowling became popular in the mid-nineteenth century after the introduction of indoor lanes in New York.

In 1875, eleven New York clubs met to create rules of bowling and standardization of equipment. Although basic rules could be agreed upon, there was no agreement on the width of the lane or the size of the pin.

The American Bowling Congress (ABC) was organized at Beethoven Hall in 1895. The score was established at 300, and the distance between pins was set at 12 inches. Originally only New York City, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Buffalo, N.Y. were represented, but the following year Cincinnati, Boston, and Lowell, Mass. were represented.

Ernest Fosberg of Rockford, Ill. was the first man to get a score of 300 in five-man league play. The following year E.D. Peifer inaugurated a handicap method for bowling; originally the competition was on an actual score basis.    

There were women bowling in the late 1800s, but the ABC was for men only. This eventually led to the launch of the Women's National Bowling Association (WNBA) in 1917, with its first annual tournament held in the following year. In 1971, the WNBA changed its name to the Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC).

The first hard rubber ball named the "Evertrue" was developed in 1906, and the maximum ball weight was set to 16 pounds. Up to this point, all balls had been made of hardwood.

The sport of bowling gained more popularity in 1920 as the prohibition law led to increases in the game. In 1939, it was established that all lanes should undergo annual inspection and certification before players are 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 alley beds were built by the military as a source of recreation.     

In the year of 1948, Brunswick introduced dots and arrow markers to their lanes, which drastically improved 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 attributed to the influence of television.

Today there are established rules and regulations in bowling. The sport continues to grow in popularity and has become a very competitive game for many serious players.