by Marsha Brandsdorfer
In the contents of a grave of an Egyptian child, several objects were found, one of which was a stone shaped like a modern day bowling pin. This grave was dated about 3000 B.C. And approximately 56 miles south of Cairo, a room discovered by Italian archaeologists was similar to a modern-day bowling alley as it had a deep lane running across it, and several stone balls were found. This validates evidence that the game of bowling has a long history.
I visited the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in Arlington, Texas, and read Mark Williams’ well researched Kindle book entitled, Insider Bowling Tips – History of Bowling E-Book to learn more. Apparently, different variations of the game of bowling were played in Italy, Germany, Canada, and England, and when Dutch settlers brought the game of bowling to America, their version used nine pins.
Whereas bowling had been played primarily outdoors for centuries, it later became popular as an indoor game so it could still be played during inclement weather. “Knickerbockers” was the first indoor bowling alley built in the United States, in New York City in 1840. Soon other indoor alleys followed as the game grew in popularity. Most early bowling alleys were small, and pin boys were used to reset the pins after each frame.
Several bowling organizations were launched, beginning as early as 1875 to establish bowling as a standardized sport. It eventually became a ten pin sport.
In New York City, the American Bowling Congress founded in 1895, established uniform rules and equipment so they could be the same nationwide. Once rules were standardized, the popularity of the game spread.
Throughout the years, changes came about in bowling equipment to help improve the game, including changes in the style and uniformity of the shoes, the pins, the balls, and even the ball cores, which would help sustain the ball’s balance when it was tossed down the bowling alley. The invention and use of the automatic pinsetter pushed pin boys out of the employment market, but it enhanced the game. The early machines were not the best, but within time, the machines got better and it became a huge success.
Bowling became so popular, that with the invention of television, it was to become a spectator sport as well. Bowling Headliners was the first show aired in 1949, wherein each professional bowler competed for monetary prizes. I remember Bowling for Dollars, which featured non-professionals. Bowling has been commonly featured in such TV shows as The Honeymooners, The Flintstones, and Laverne & Shirley. Bowling has also been shown in movies, such as The Big Lebowski from 1998, which has become a modern classic cult film, starring “The Dude” played by actor Jeff Bridges.
The popularity of bowling is featured as well on many international postage stamps, which can easily develop into a fun topical collection and would make a very interesting exhibit.