Throughout the years, the popularity of bowling has increased in many places across America and the world. And while the sport itself has only really began to gain popularity in recent years, anthropologists and historians have reason to believe that bowling has been around for a very long time, some say even back to the BC and CE eras. So, while people might just think of bowling as a fun sport to play or compete in, they might not actually think about the history of bowling and how it actually all came about.
Sir Flinders Petrie, an anthropologist from Britain, was the one to discover in the 1930s what he asserted to be a crude form of bowling in the grave of a child in Egypt, showing that bowling was around for the ancient Egyptians and can trace it’s ancestry back to 3200 BC. In other areas of the world such as Germany and England, it is thought that bowling began in around 300 AD. It is also thought that bowling was popular in the 1300s under the reign of King Edward III before he allegedly outlawed it to keep his troops focused on other sports, but it is known for sure that bowling was popular under King Henry VIII.
Bowling is thought to have been brought to America by English, Dutch, and German settlers who all brought over their own version of the game when they came to America, though in most histories it is seen to have been referred to as ninepins back then.
It is not fully known when the ten pin game that people know and love today was fully born, but it reached it’s popularity sometime in the 1800s.
American Bowling Congress
Bowling was most likely played outside in a version called lawn bowling at first, but in the 1800s the first bowling alley was moved inside. This led to it’s own problems as gambling soon became associated with bowling, enough that the game itself was outlawed for a while in the 1820s in some states. But, by the 19th century the game was still gaining popularity, enough that people came up with a universal set of rules for the game, along with clubs and leagues, leading to the formation of the American Bowling Congress in 1895.
The American Bowling Congress league was originally only for men while the game of bowling was still seen to be a gambler’s sport, though it always remained popular with women. Eventually, the game began to be seen as socially acceptable, though the American Bowling Congress still did not allow women.
So, then women took the sport into their own hands. The first women’s informal national tournament was held in 1907. Eventually, in 1917 the Women’s International Bowling Congress was formed. To this day it is still one of the largest women’s sports leagues in the world.
With the constant popularity and changes to the game of bowling also came the invention of many different versions of the bowling alley. Like mentioned before, the original alley was outside on the lawn before being moved inside. The first indoor bowling alley was Knickerbockers Alley in New York City, which opened in 1840. The oldest surviving indoor bowling alley in America was built in 1846 as a part of Roseland College in Connecticut.
Eventually, the bowling alley would become a big part of the bowling sport, and many different versions for the different types of bowling would open across the world, such as nine pin, ten pin, and duck pin bowling.
The oldest ten pin bowling alley was made in 1908 was opened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and still survives to this day. In 1909 the first ten pin bowling alley was formed in Sweden. Hundreds of bowling alleys were installed on US military bases during Word War II, causing ten pin bowling to finally catch on there during that time.
In the 1950s came the rise of the television, and with the invention of the television came the first officially broadcasted bowling match. After the first broadcast, bowling gained even more popularity than it had, and eventually led up to the matches that anyone can watch these days on television. This also led to the foundation of the Professional Bowlers Association in 1958. Today it has over 4,000 members worldwide.
While bowling matches continue to be broadcast on television to this day, it has yet to become an official Olympic sport, though it was demonstrated there in 1988. While it has been on the list many times to become an official Olympic sport, this has yet to happen.
Altogether, the history of bowling is actually more interesting than you might expect. These days it has grown in popularity enough that it is played competitively as a sport in many high schools and on television, even if there are some people out there who still claim it is not an actual sport. Despite the naysayers, people around the world continue to love the sport. It has grown from something that was seen as a dark activity that made people prone to gambling to something that is now known to be a family activity for everyone.
These days no matter who you are or how good you might be at bowling, you will most likely find it easy to go and find a bowling alley near where you live and bowl your heart out with your family or team. This can be ten pin, nine pin, duck pin, or any other type of bowling out there. And, maybe someday there will be more options out there, including bowling as an Olympic sport, because just like a lot of things out there, while bowling already has a rich and interesting history, the history continues to be made as life continues on. Who knows what might come next for bowling that might be added to its history in a few years?T