In our first The Bowling History You Never Knew post, you learned when bowling first got its start and how it evolved from the popular European ninepin game to the ten pin game we know today. Let’s pick up where we left off…
American bowling continued to grow in popularity, as evidenced by the many industry titans who installed bowling lanes in their mansions. By the late 1800s, bowling was popular in many individual states, including New York, Ohio and even Illinois, which, at that time, was considered “out west.” Each region, however, also had its own variations in details such as ball weights and pin dimensions. Finally, Joe Thum, a restaurant owner, gathered together representatives from regional bowling clubs. On September 9, 1895, these representatives established the American Bowling Congress in Beethoven Hall in New York City. Standardization and national competitions soon followed. The American Bowling Congress, or ABC, still exists today but is now referred to at the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).
When first established, the ABC was only for men, though women had been bowling since the 1850s. In 1917, the Women’s International Bowling Congress was created in St. Louis. Women bowlers from around the country also decided to form the Women’s National Bowling Association.
Around this same time, bowling technology also drastically improved. In 1905, the first rubber ball, the “Evertrue” was used, replacing the previous balls made out of lignum vitae, a hard wood. In 1914, the Brunswick Corporation introduced its Mineralite balls, made out of a “mysterious rubber compound.”
In 1951, the American Machine and Foundry Company (AMF) purchased the patents to inventor Gottfried Schmidt’s automatic pinspotter. A year later, bowling proprietors no longer had to rely on pinboys to reset the pins after each bowl; now, the pinspotter did it for them.
In the 1950s, TV helped bowling’s popularity experience exponential growth. NBC broadcast “Championship Bowling,” the first network to cover the sport. Shows such as “Make That Spare,” “Celebrity Bowling” and “Bowling For Dollars” became popular. In 1961, ABC covered the Pro Bowlers Association (PBA) competition. Eddie Elias, a successful promoter, agent and entrepreneur, had founded the PBA, and, under his direction, the Pro Bowlers Tour became a staple of ABC sports broadcasting. Soon after, coverage began of women’s bowling, and millions of Americans began watching and following the sport.
As the professional sport grew, so too did recreational bowling. Cosmic bowling, loud music and an all-around party atmosphere has kept bowling popular with 95 million people in 90 countries worldwide. Bowling remains America’s favorite recreational activity and seems in no danger of losing its #1 position on the list. More than 1/3 of children ages 6-18 bowl and 12% of them list bowling as their favorite activity. The White Hutchinson study found that children are 80% more involved in bowling than any other age bracket.
*Information from this post is courtesy of http://www.bowlingmuseum.com/Visit/HistoryofBowling.aspx , http://perfectbowling.com/bowling-history and http://priceonomics.com/the-rise-and-fall-of-professional-bowling/.