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? 🙂