Bowling has a long and rich history, and today is one of the most popular sports in the world. A British anthropologist, Sir Flinders Petrie, discovered in the 1930's a collection of objects in a child's grave in Egypt that appeared to him to be used for a crude form of bowling. If he was correct, then bowling traces its ancestry to 3200 BC.
A German historian, William Pehle, asserted that bowling began in his country about 300 AD. There is substantial evidence that a form of bowling was in vogue in England in 1366, when King Edward III allegedly outlawed it to keep his troops focused on archery practice. And it is almost certain that bowling was popular during the reign of Henry VIII.
By this time, too, there were many variations of "pin" games, and also of games where a ball was thrown at objects other than pins. This would seem to imply that the games had developed over time, from an earlier period.
One of the most eccentric games is still found in Edinburgh. The player swings a fingerless ball between his legs and heaves it at the pins. In doing so, he "flops" onto the lane on his stomach. There were and still are many variations of ninepins in Western Europe. Likely related are the Italian bocce, the French petanque, and British lawn bowling.
Undoubtedly, the English, Dutch and German settlers all imported their own variations of bowling to America. The earliest mention of it in serious American literature is by Washington Irving, when Rip Van Winkle awakens to the sound of "crashing ninepins". The first permanent American bowling location probably 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.
The game had its ups and downs in America. An 1841 Connecticut law made it illegal to maintain "any ninepin lanes", probably because bowling was the object of much gambling. But the problem, of course, also evidenced its popularity. Also, many captains of industry chose to install a lane in their mansions.
While it is uncertain where the tenpin game evolved, by the late 1800s it was prevalent in many states such as New York, Ohio and as far "west" as Illinois. However, details like ball weights and pin dimensions varied by region. But that changed when restauranteur Joe Thum finally pulled together representatives of the various regional bowling clubs. On September 9, 1895, at Beethoven Hall in New York City, the American Bowling Congress was born. Soon standardization would be established, and major national competitions could be held.
While women had been bowling in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the American Bowling Congress was for men. It was in 1917 that the Women's International Bowling Congress was born in St. Louis. Encouraged by proprietor Dennis Sweeney, women leaders from around the country participating in a tournament decided to form...