The History of Bowling

Historians do not agree on all aspects of the history of bowling. The main point of contention is the origin of the sport. Sir Flinders Petrie, a British anthropologist, discovered a child's grave in Egypt, which contained pieces to a game that he interpreted to be an early form of bowling. The remains were dated to 3200 B.C. meaning that if his interpretation is correct, the game is over 5,000 years old. Another historian, William Pehl of Germany claims the game was created in Germany around 300 A.D.

Though its true origin may never be known, there is documented proof that it has been around since 1366 when King Edward III outlawed to game to keep his troops focused on their archery practice. Many countries have their own variations of the game, which leads one to believe that these games must have developed over time from an earlier source. The English game of lawn bowling, Italian bocce and French pétanque are similar games that likely share a common root. Immigrants from each of these countries brought their games and adapted rules, which evolved
into modern bowling.

The earliest mention of bowling in the U.S. comes from Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle." Rip is awakened by the sound of "crashing ninepins," which is believed to refer to bowling pins.

There is no documentation of when the game evolved from nine pins to ten but it is known that tenpin was popular across New York, Ohio and Illinois as early as the 1800s. During this time, the weight of the balls and pin dimensions varied by region. A central, governing body was not created until September 9, 1895 when the American Bowling Congress was formed at Beethoven Hall in New York City.

The sport's popularity exploded in the 1950s when the automatic pinspotters were invented, doing away with the necessity of the "pin boys." The automatic pinspotters increased the speed and precision of the game.

In 1961 ABC broadcast the first PBA event on television. The Pro Bowlers Tour became immensely popular with the introduction of broadcast events. Thanks to smart promoters and television access, the game took on the interest of millions of Americas.

The game today, while popular with its followers does not attract the same numbers of viewers as it did in its heyday. Walter Ray Williams Jr. and Peter Weber lead the charge of today's more popular bowlers, thanks in large part to their entertaining commercial spots in the Professional Bowling Association's (PBA) advertising campaign.

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