Billiard Halls & Pool Tables

My dining has recently been converted into a billiard room…so of course I had to look into the history of billiard halls. I’ve never read much about billiard tables in western novels, and while I know their popularity in Europe goes back for centuries, I figured this particular form of recreation had to be around during the old west era. Sure enough, the popularity of “pool tables” here in the States began to boom in the 1800’s. In fact, the Americanized name came about during this era due to tendencies for wages to be placed on the games or gambling pool as it were, and the name “Pool Table” stuck.

As for a general history on billiard tables, no one really knows of the very first origin. Billiards was played as an out door lawn game, resembling golf or croquet, in Northern Europe during the 1500 century.The first actual evidence of billiards was found in the 1470 inventory of King Louis XI of France in the form of a billiard game boards. Historians are unclear about the reasons for the evolution of these games. Whether it was merely for entertainment or served some social or religious functions in ancient times is still an intriguing debate among historians.

Billiards graduated to indoor games and became popular among aristocrats and commoners in France by the mid 1500’s. Billiards a game of subtle physical deliverance, profound concentration and metal agility allowed fair play and equal footage to players of both sexes. By the mid 1600’s, the table version similar to today’s games appeared. Soon, billiards acquired its status as a scientific game with precisely designed equipment, manufacturing plants for tables, standardized rules.

Billiard equipment improved rapidly in England after 1800, largely because of the Industrial Revolution. Chalk was used to increase friction between the ball and the cue stick even before cues had tips. The leather cue tip, with which a player can apply side-spin to the ball, was perfected by 1823. Tables originally had flat walls for rails and their only function was to keep the balls from falling off. They resembled river banks and even used to be called “banks”. Players discovered that balls could bounce off the rails and began deliberately aiming at them. Thus a “bank shot” is one in which a ball is made to rebound from a cushion as part of the shot.

The leather cue tip initially designed by Captain Minguard for protection of the cue added a new dimension to the game. By 1850’s, billiards invaded most of the world. In 1826, England’s John Thurstion changed the wooden game board to slate. By 1797, new fabric replaced cotton or wool to improve smoothness and friction. Balls evolved from wood to ivory to the present Colloidal coated plastic form by 1869.

From 1878 until 1956, pool and billiard championship tournaments were held almost annually, with one-on-one challenge matches filling the remaining months. At times, including during the Civil War, billiard results received wider coverage than war news. Players were so renowned that cigarette cards were issued featuring them. Pool went to war several times as a popular recreation for the troops. Professional players toured military posts giving exhibitions; some even worked in the defense Industry.

Today pool tables come in all kinds of styles and range from seven to nine feet. They have converter tops so you can use it as dining room table…which we will be implementing.

I’ve found shooting a round to be really relaxing…especially when playing against myself *g*, although I have a bunch of nephews who are eager to give their auntie valuable pointers 😉

Anyone else enjoy a game of pool?  What’s in your game room?  🙂

Stacey Kayne
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Updated: December 3, 2010 — 4:16 am

10 Comments

  1. We are getting the pool table my husband played on when he grew up. His parents are moving into a retirement center. But we don’t have a game room. We are pretty torn and will probably put it in storage for a while. Otherwise, it means a new house or a remodel!

    Our kids grew up going to the grandparents and playing. It is a tradition!

    Peace, Julie

  2. Stacey, what a fun post! I don’t play, but have over the years. Like many ladies my age, I “once” did a lot of things, I don’t or can’t do any longer. LOL And, I’m not all that old — just that lazy! Great, interesting information. Thanks for sharing. Anything that brings a family, and extended family, together is a winner! Hugs, P

  3. I learn so much reading these blogs. My daughter and son-in-law play whenever possible and play on a leaque, making it to state a couple of times. Now that they live in the mountains in Colorado they don’t play near as ofte but now that they miss it.

  4. Avatar

    We bought a pool table about 12 years ago for our family room. It has been fun. Unfortunately, with our renovations, it has become a catch-all and we haven’t been able to play for a while. It seems every time I get it cleared off, it will last a few hours before someone comes in and puts something on it. My aim is to get it cleared off and keep it that way by New Years. I had never played before we got it and it is fun. The whole family enjoys it.

  5. I read a Jennifer Crusie book called Welcome to Temptation. the hero was a pool genius. I probably learned more about the total complexity of pool from that book than anywhere else.

    To me, the few times I’ve played pool, it’s just about knocking the ball into the easiest hole.

    But it’s sooooooo much more.

  6. I’ve tried pool a couple of times, Stacey, and I’m just hopeless – as I am with any sport involving a ball and eye-hand coordination.
    Great blog, anyway, lots of cool stuff I didn’t know.
    But now you’ve done it to me. This song is going to be running through my head all day.
    “We’ve got trouble, right here in River City. With a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for POOL!…”
    🙂

  7. We had a pool table for years, and when the kids left home, our next-door neighbors bought it, so it’s still in the “family.” I never rreally played, though the kids and their friends loved it. Elizabeth, I’ve got that song in my head now, too. I love the Music Man!

    Fun post, Stacey. oxox

  8. We don’t have room really for a pool table but the times I’ve had a chance to play, I’ve really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of places that tend to not quite cater to females – not that they are refused but you just wouldn’t want to be in some of the company lol. I found the background on it very interesting.

  9. Hi Stacey!

    What an interesting post! Loved it! In our house, we have a loft room that we (of course!) had to buy a pool table for. It overlooks the living room. We converted the whole loft room to the “man cave” for my husband, and the renovations were just completed a few months ago. He is very good at pool–I’m not quite so good. LOL It is a lot of fun, and I don’t take myself seriously at it–I can’t do any trick shots or anything like that–just lucky when it goes in. LOL Sorry to be late to the party–that’s my usual state anymore it seems. Loved the post.
    Hugs,
    Cheryl

  10. Interesting. I never knew much about the history of billiards. I’m not very good at shooting pool, but my father was a well known professional pool player. That’s how he made his living. He played in competitions until he was in his 70’s, traveling all over the US. The biggest pool tournament is held every year in Las Vegas.

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