We are reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.Β Learn more.

Bowling history, a fascinating journey dating back millennia, captures the essence of a beloved pastime enjoyed globally.

In this comprehensive exploration of bowling history.

Discover its origins, how it evolved, and what makes it a popular sport today!

Let’s roll!


Bowling History Summary

  • ⏳ Origins and Evolution: Bowling’s origins can be traced back thousands of years, spanning numerous cultures. Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Germans all played early forms of the game. The modern ten-pin incarnation emerged in the United States during the 19th century.
  • πŸš€ Rise to Prominence: The establishment of the American Bowling Congress in 1895 and the Women’s International Bowling Congress in 1916 provided organization and standardization to the sport. Bowling’s inclusion in the 1936 Olympics and the introduction of televised lanes in the mid-20th century bolstered its growing popularity.
  • πŸ₯‡ Noteworthy Growth and Adaptation: Over time, bowling continued to expand globally and adapt to new technologies and challenges. The sport embraced automatic pinsetters, computerized scoring systems, and even introduced candlepin and duckpin bowling variations. Its resilience and continued innovation solidified its influence in the world of sports and leisure.

Bowling History Timeline

3200 BC – 300 AD

One of the earliest known instances of a bowling-like game dates back to 3200 BC in Egypt, where archeologists uncovered tomb artifacts resembling primitive bowling pins and balls. Around 50 AD, Roman legionaries played a game where soldiers rolled stone balls towards smaller stones with the goal of positioning them as closely as possible.

In Germany, around 300 AD, a game resembling bowling was played in churches as a religious ceremony. Participants would try to knock over a Kegel (a club-like object) with a round stone, symbolizing the destruction of one’s sins.

1300s – 1600s

Bowling continued to evolve across Europe throughout the Middle Ages. In 1299, King Edward III of England allegedly banned the game to keep his troops focused on archery practice. In 1511, Martin Luther helped standardize the game in Germany by determining that there should be nine pins.

In 1609, England’s King James I outlawed bowling because it distracted citizens from practicing more essential trades. Despite this, the game continued to gain popularity among the nobility and rapidly spread throughout Europe.

1700s – 1800s

English, Dutch, and German settlers brought bowling to America in the 17th and 18th centuries. By the early 19th century, bowling was a fixture in New York City, with many alleys operating in Manhattan. In 1841, Connecticut saw the first official legislation against bowling, with a fine for those hosting nine-pin games.

As a response to the ban on nine-pin bowling, ten-pin bowling emerged in the 1840s. In 1895, the American Bowling Congress (ABC) was established, and it started standardizing rules, equipment, and permits for championships, marking the beginning of a more structured era for the sport.

1916 – 1930s

The Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC) was founded in 1916, providing a separate organization to govern women’s championships and advocate for women bowlers. This helped the sport grow in popularity among both men and women across the United States.

Bowling’s first major technological advancement, the automatic pinsetter, was invented in 1936 by Gottfried Schmidt. This revolutionized the sport, simplifying the game and making it more accessible to a wider audience.

1950s – 1960s

The advent of television in the 1950s dramatically increased bowling’s popularity. Shows like “Championship Bowling” and “Make That Spare” brought the game into the homes of millions of Americans, creating a surge in interest and participation. The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) was established in 1958, helping attract media attention and sponsorships for the sport.

In the 1960s, automatic scoring systems started to replace manual scorekeeping as the sport continued to modernize and improve. Computerized scoring devices made it easier for both casual and professional bowlers to track their progress and enhance their skills.

1970s – 1980s

The 1970s were a golden age for professional bowling, with players like Earl Anthony and Mark Roth dominating the sport. Competitions boasting lucrative prize funds enhanced the sport’s prestige. Bowlers Journal International reported that in 1979, the PBA tour offered a total prize pool of more than $3 million, a sizable sum for the time.

In the 1980s, the rise of video games and other entertainment options led to a slight decline in bowling’s popularity. However, the sport still maintained a strong following, and the construction of new, family-oriented bowling centers helped keep interest alive.

1990s – 2000s

The 1990s and 2000s saw continued advancements in technology that impacted both equipment and gameplay. New materials for producing bowling balls, like reactive resin and particle coverstocks, provided bowlers with more power and control than ever before.

During this period, bowlers like Walter Ray Williams Jr., Pete Weber, and Kelly Kulick made their mark on the sport with record-breaking achievements and memorable victories. Their successes showcased the sport’s timeless appeal and continued to inspire new generations to take up bowling.



Who invented Bowling?

Bowling was not invented by a single person. It evolved over centuries as a game common in many cultures, including ancient Egypt and Rome.

How did Bowling become so popular?

Bowling’s popularity surged due to its simplicity, its unique use of leisure time, and the socialization aspect of bowling alleys.

Where did Bowling originate?

Bowling is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt around 3200 BC, then spread to other parts of the world like Rome and Germany.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments