Bowling is one of my favorite things to do on a lazy, rainy weekend afternoon. It is a great way to burn some calories and is something that the whole family can enjoy. Bowling has a long and rich history, and today it is one of the most popular sports in the world.
In the 1930’s, a British anthropologist named Sir Flinders Petrie discovered a collection of objects in a child’s grave in Egypt that appeared to be used for a rough form of bowling. If he is correct, then bowling traces its ancestry to 3200 BC. A German historian, William Pehle, argued that that bowling began in his country about 300 AD. While there is not enough evidence to pinpoint exactly when it started, bowling has been around for a very long time.
In 1366, King Edward III in England outlawed bowling because he said it was taking too much time away from his troops’ archery practice. But by the time King Henry XIII was ruler of England, bowling was back and was more popular than ever.
In this early part of bowling’s history, there were many forms of the game. One of the most eccentric games is still found in Edinburgh, Scotland. The player swings a fingerless ball between his legs and heaves it at the pins. The force of the throw makes the player flop onto his stomach in the middle of the bowling lane.
When settlers crossed the Atlantic to America, they brought many things with them and one was bowling. The earliest mention of bowling in American literature is by Washington Irving, when Rip Van Winkle awakens to the sound of “crashing ninepins.” The first permanent American bowling location was for lawn bowling in New York’s Battery area. Now the heart of the financial district, New Yorkers still call the small plot Bowling Green, not to be confused with the university of the same name in Kentucky.
Bowling technology took a big step forward in the early 1900’s. Balls used to be made out of a very hard wood. In 1905, the first rubber ball, the “Evertrue” was introduced. Then in 1914 the Brunswick Corporation successfully promoted the Mineralite ball, only saying that it was made out of a “mysterious rubber compound.” The ball was much harder than the earlier rubber balls, rolled more accurately and lasted much longer.
In 1951, another technological breakthrough set the stage for massive growth. The first automatic pinspotters were introduced to bowling alleys. Before the pinspotters, a “pinboy” would have to set up the pins by hand after each throw of the bowling ball. This allowed for much faster play and really helped popularize the sport with the American public.
Today, the sport of bowling is enjoyed by over 95 million people in more than 90 countries worldwide. I’m one of those 95 million. Are you?
Until next time,
Today’s Fun Fact: If all your muscles could pull in one direction, you could create a force of 25 tons. That’s about the same weight as 10 full grown elephants!