International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame has replicas of
artifacts for a game similar to bowling which were found in the
tomb of an ancient Egyptian youth who died approximately 5,200 BC.
Ancient Polynesians rolled stones at objects from a distance of
60 feet (18.29 meters) - the same distance as from foul line to
3d and 4th centuries, bowling was a religious ceremony for determining
absence of sin. German parishioners had to roll or throw an object
at a pin or kegel (derivation of the word kegler for bowler)
to avoid performing an act of penance.
known legislation against bowling dates to 14th Century England.
The sport had become so popular that people were neglecting the
archery practice necessary for national defense during the 100 Year
War (a misnomer, since it actually lasted from 1337 to 1453). Both
King Edward III who reigned from 1327-1377 and King Richard II (1377-1399)
banned the game. From Europe to America, bowling has been banned
throughout the world for the "evil it leashes on society."
A life size
diorama at The International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame portrays
Martin Luther bowling on the single lane at the side of his home.
A brochure from the Museum states that Luther, an avid bowler, "once
preached a sermon which, if put into bowling vernacular, proclaimed
we all strive for perfection in life. But if we roll a gutterball,
all is not lost."
brought bowling to America in the 17th century. The game consisted
of nine pins set in a triangle. It was regularly played in an area
of New York City still known as "Bowling Green".
Connecticut banned "bowling at the game of ninepins" because of
widespread gambling. Other states followed suit. It is popularly
believed that today's game of tenpins was devised to circumvent
the laws against the game of ninepins. An outdoor game for most
of its history, indoor bowling became popular in the mid-nineteenth
century after the introduction of indoor lanes in New York in 1840.
- 1875 - Eleven New
York area clubs meet to create rules and some standardization
of equipment. No significant impact since no agreement could be
reached on the width of the lane or size of the pin.
- 1892 - Women were
known to be active participants and even bowled in a separate
event at the 1907 ABC tournament.
- 1895 - American Bowling
Congress organized at Beethoven Hall in New York City. Maximum
score established at 300. Previously, it was 20 balls with a top
score of 200. Distance between pins was set at 12 inches. The
original organizers represented New York City, Brooklyn, N.Y.
and Buffalo, N.Y. The following year Cincinnati, Boston and Lowell,
Mass. were represented and letters of interest were received from
Chicago, St. Louis, Wheeling, W. Va., Kansas City, Mo. and Quebec,
- 1900 -1910 - ABC's
relevance and credibility were tested often in a power struggle
between the east (New York) and west (Chicago). Among other issues,
New York, accustomed to infrequent competition wanted dues to
be $1 per league. Chicago, which had regular league sessions favored
$1 per team.
- 1902 - Ernest Fosberg
of Rockford, Ill. becomes first to roll ABC-approved 300 in five-man
- 1903 - E. D. Peifer
of Chicago inaugurates a handicap method for bowling. Previously,
all competition was on a "scratch" (actual score) basis.
- 1905 - First hard
rubber ball developed; maximum ball weight set at 16 pounds. Previously
all balls were made of "lignum vitae", a hardwood.
- 1906 - Brunswick-Balke-Collender
opens factory to make wooden bowling balls.
- 1906 - The east seceded
from ABC and organized its own group. Fourteen years later, they
returned to the flock.
- 1906 - ABC refuses
to allow women to be members.
- 1916 - The WIBC founded.
- 1916 - ABC amends
its constitution, limiting its membership to white males only.
- 1920 - Prohibition
law leads to increase in bowling as proprietors discover that
patrons want to bowl, even if they can't drink.
- 1922 - Alley owners
and employees placed in separate membership class. In 1929 the
"class"; was expanded to include those with financial interests,
instructors or those who received pay for services. The possibility
these people could improve with free practice was the crux of
the rule. It was voted out in 1948.
- 1928 - Rule requiring
alleys to eject gambling types adopted and bowlers warned that
any involvement would result in expulsion. In 1976, the rule was
virtually eliminated since casino properties in Las Vegas and
Reno could not even sponsor teams.
- 1930 - Jenny Kelleher,
Madison, Wisc. rolls first WIBC-approved perfect game.
- 1939 - Rule requiring
annual inspection and certification of lanes is adopted.
- 1939 - National Negro
Bowling Assoc. founded (subsequently changed to The National Bowling
- 1941 - ABC Hall of
Fame instituted. (Only baseball and golf have older Halls of Fame.)
- 1941 -1945 World War
II significantly impacts bowling. The military built 4,500 alley
beds on bases as a major source of recreation. It was the first
exposure to bowling for countless servicemen and women.
- 1948 - Brunswick introduces
dots and arrow markers to their lanes, dramatically improving
accuracy for most bowlers.
- 1950 - After a bitter
fight with activists from the labor and religious areas which
lasted several years, ABC removes "white only"from its constitution.
- 1958 - The Professional
Bowlers Association (PBA) was founded by Eddie Elias, an Akron
attorney and television sports interviewer. There were 33 charter
- 1959 - The Professional
Women Bowler's Association becomes the first organization for
professional women bowlers. It is no longer operating.
- 1962 - American Wheelchair
Bowling Association formed.
- 1978 - J. Elmer Reed,
a pioneer of the National Negro Bowling Association, becomes first
black inducted into the ABC Hall of Fame.
- 1981 - Ladies Pro
Bowlers Tour formed.
- 1982 - Young American
Bowling Alliance formed through merger of the American Junior
Bowling Congress, Youth Bowling Assn. and the ABC/WIBC collegiate
- 1993 - ABC removes
"male only" from its constitution pursuant to threats from women