Do you know which sport is older than the Roman Empire, and even than the first Olympic Games held in 776 BC? Bowling! Anthropologists have discovered hieroglyphs and works of art that indicate a sport similar to modern bowling, 5000 years old.
German historian William Pehle claims that modern bowling has its roots in Germany and dates back to 300 BC. At that time most Germans wore wooden cones in the shape of a rod, and they believed that by knocking them down with stones, their sins would be forgiven. Sounds a lot more fun than confession.
The earliest records of this sport date back to 1299, when the existence of the first bowling alley in Southampton was recorded. In 1366, it was banned by King Henry III, because it distracted the soldiers from archery practice. In 1400, bowling was allowed in the country again. During this time, there were different variations of this sport across Europe, from the number of players, the size of the ball, to the number of cones that varied from 3 to 17, but the goal of the game was the same – to knock down all the cones.
Bowling was brought to America by British, German and Dutch immigrants. The depictions of Dutch bowlers in New York are the earliest known evidence of this sport in America.
In 1820, gambling became a common vice, as well as a way of relieving stress for the workers of that time. Bowling alleys have become the centerpiece of this sometimes fun but mostly gloomy practice – leading to this sport being temporarily or completely banned in some states.
By the end of the 19th century, due to the different influence and culture, different variations of this game were created. It became clear that a universal set of rules needed to be established in order for leagues to be formed. Joe Thum developed unique standards with the United Bowling Clubs and so in 1895 the American Bowling Congress was formed.