Friday October 15, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Bowling

On this Day:

In 1520, King Henry VIII of England ordered bowling lanes installed at Whitehall. However, you would score a strike in thinking that bowling existed long before King Henry bowled a frame…

Bowling is a target sport and recreational activity in which a player rolls a ball toward pins (in pin bowling) or another target (in target bowling). The term bowling usually refers to pin bowling (most commonly ten-pin bowling), though in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, bowling could also refer to target bowling, such as lawn bowls.

In pin bowling, the goal is to knock over pins on a long playing surface known as a lane. A strike is achieved when all the pins are knocked down on the first roll, and a spare is achieved if all the pins are knocked over on a second roll.

Lanes have a wood or synthetic surface onto which protective lubricating oil is applied in different specified oil patterns that vary ball path trajectories and characteristics. Common types of pin bowling include ten-pin, candlepin, duckpin, nine-pin, five-pin and kegel. The historical game skittles is the forerunner of modern pin bowling.

In target bowling, the aim is usually to get the ball as close to a mark as possible. The surface in target bowling may be grass, gravel, or synthetic. Lawn bowls, bocce, carpet bowls, pétanque, and boules may have both indoor and outdoor varieties.

Bowling is played by 100 million people in more than 90 countries (including 70 million in the United States alone), and is the subject of video games.

The earliest known forms of bowling date back to ancient Egypt, with wall drawings depicting bowling being found in a royal Egyptian tomb dated to 5200 BC and miniature pins and balls in an Egyptian child’s grave about 5200 BC. Remnants of bowling balls were found among artifacts in ancient Egypt going back to the Egyptian protodynastic period in 3200 BC. What is thought to be a child’s game involving porphyry (stone) balls, a miniature trilithon, and nine breccia-veined alabaster vase-shaped figures—thought to resemble the more modern game of skittles—was found in Naqada, Egypt in 1895.

Balls were made using the husks of grains, covered in a material such as leather, and bound with string. Other balls made of porcelain have also been found, indicating that these were rolled along the ground rather than thrown due to their size and weight. Some of these resemble the modern-day jack used in target bowl games. Bowling games of different forms are also noted by Herodotus as an invention of the Lydians in Asia Minor.

About 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, a similar game evolved between Roman legionaries entailing the tossing of stone objects as close as possible to other stone objects, which eventually evolved into Italian Bocce, or outdoor bowling.

Around 400 AD, bowling began in Germany as a religious ritual to cleanse oneself from sin by rolling a rock into a club (kegel) representing the heathen, resulting in bowlers being called keglers.

Post-classical history

In 1299, the oldest-surviving known bowling green for target style bowling was built: Master’s Close (now the Old Bowling Green of the Southampton Bowling Club) in Southampton, England, which is still in use.

In 1325, laws were passed in Berlin and Cologne that limited bets on lawn bowling to five shillings.

In 1366, the first official mention of bowling in England was made, when King Edward III banned it as a distraction to archery practice.

In the 15th–17th centuries, lawn bowling spread from Germany into Austria, Switzerland, and the Low Countries, with playing surfaces made of cinders or baked clay.

In 1455, lawn bowling lanes in London were first roofed-over, turning bowling into an all-weather game. In Germany, they were called kegelbahns, and were often attached to taverns and guest houses.

In 1463, a public feast was held in Frankfurt, Germany, with a venison dinner followed by lawn bowling.

Modern history

In the 16th to 18th centuries

In 1511, English King Henry VIII was an avid bowler. He banned bowling for the lower classes and imposed a levy for private lanes to limit them to the wealthy. Another English law, passed in 1541 (repealed in 1845), prohibited workers from bowling, except at Christmas, and only in their master’s home and in his presence. In 1530, he acquired Whitehall Palace in central London as his new residence, having it extensively rebuilt complete with outdoor bowling lanes, indoor tennis court, jousting tiltyard, and cockfighting pit.

Protestant Reformation founder Martin Luther set the number of pins (which varied from 3 to 17) at nine. He had a bowling lane built next to his home for his children, sometimes rolling a ball himself.

On 19 July 1588, English Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Drake allegedly was playing bowls at Plymouth Hoe when the arrival of the Spanish Armada was announced, replying “We have time enough to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too.”

In 1609, Dutch East India Company explorer Henry Hudson discovered Hudson Bay, bringing Dutch colonization to New Amsterdam (later New York); Hudson’s men brought some form of lawn bowling with them.

In 1617, English King James I published Declaration of Sports, banning bowling on Sundays but permitting dancing and archery for those first attending an Anglican service, outraging Puritans; it was reissued in 1633 by his successor Charles I, then ordered publicly burned in 1643 by the Puritan Parliament.

In 1670, Dutchmen liked to bowl at the Old King’s Arms Tavern near modern-day 2nd and Broadway in New York City.

In 1733, Bowling Green in New York City was built on the site of a Dutch cattle market and parade ground, becoming the city’s oldest public park to survive to modern times.

In the 19th century

This early (1820) newspaper advertisement in Indiana touts a “Ball and Ten Pin Alley” to attract customers to a Baking and Confectionary Business.

An 1838 Indiana newspaper describes how ten-pin bowling alleys were constructed to evade a Baltimore statute prohibiting nine-pin bowling.

In 1819, New York writer Washington Irving made the first mention of ninepin bowling in American literature in his story Rip Van Winkle.

Newspaper articles and advertisements at least as early as 1820 refer to “ten pin alleys”, usually in the context of a side attraction to a main business or property as distinguished from dedicated “bowling alley” establishments as presently understood.

On 1 January 1840, Knickerbocker Alleys in New York City opened, becoming the first indoor bowling alley.

In 1846, the oldest surviving bowling lanes in the United States were built as part of Roseland Cottage, the summer estate of Henry Chandler Bowen (1831-1896) in Woodstock, Connecticut. The lanes, now part of Historic New England’s Roseland Cottage House Museum, contains Gothic Revival architectural elements in keeping with the style of the entire estate.

In 1848, the Revolutions of 1848 resulted in accelerated German immigration to the U.S., reaching 5 million by 1900, bringing their love of beer and bowling with them; by the late 19th century they made New York City a center of bowling.

In 1848, the Scottish Bowling Association for lawn bowling was founded in Scotland by 200 clubs; it was dissolved then refounded in 1892.

In 1864, Glasgow cotton merchant William Wallace Mitchell (1803–1884) published Manual of Bowls Playing, which became a standard reference for lawn bowling in Scotland.

In 1875, the National Bowling Association (NBA) was founded by 27 local clubs in New York City to standardize rules for ten-pin bowling, setting the ball size and the distance between the foul line and the pins, but failing to agree on other rules; it was superseded in 1895 by the American Bowling Congress.

In 1880, Justin White of Worcester, Massachusetts invented Candlepin Bowling.

In the 1880s, Brunswick Corporation (founded 1845) of Chicago, Illinois, maker of billiard tables began making bowling balls, pins, and wooden lanes to sell to taverns installing bowling alleys.

On 9 September 1895, the modern standardized rules for ten-pin bowling were established in New York City by the new American Bowling Congress (ABC) (later the United States Bowling Congress), who changed the scoring system from a maximum 200 points for 20 balls to a maximum 300 points for 12 balls, and set the maximum ball weight at 16 lb (7.3 kg), and pin distance at 12 in (30 cm). The first ABC champion (1906–1921) was Jimmy Smith (1885–1948).[29] In 1927 Mrs. Floretta “Doty” McCutcheon (1888–1967) defeated Smith in an exhibition match, founding a school that taught 500,000 women how to bowl. In 1993 women were allowed to join the ABC. In 2005 the ABC merged with the Women’s International Bowling Congress (WIBC) et al. to become the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).

In the early 1890s, Duckpin bowling was invented in Boston, Massachusetts, spreading to Baltimore, Maryland about 1899.

In the 20th century

In 1903, the English Bowling Association was founded by cricketer W. G. Grace. On 1 January 2008, it merged with the English Women’s Bowling Association to become Bowls England.

In 1903, D. Peifer of Chicago, Illinois invented a handicap method for bowling.

In 1905, Rubber Duckpin bowling was invented by Willam Wuerthele of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, catching on in Quebec, Canada.

The ABC initially used bowling balls made of Lignum vitae hardwood from the Caribbean, which were eventually supplanted by the Ebonite rubber bowling ball in 1905 and the Brunswick Mineralite rubber ball by 1909.[35] Columbia Industries, founded in 1960, was the first manufacturer to successfully use polyester resin (“plastic”) in bowling balls.[36] In 1980, urethane-shell bowling balls were introduced by Ebonite (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee?  A bowler called Muhammad Alley…

Second, a Song:

You don’t need to be good at bowling if you’re good at engineering. 

Mark Rober is a Former NASA and Apple engineer, current YouTuber and friend of science. 

According to  Answers to some common questions about Mark:

  1. I studied Mechanical Engineering in School.  I did my undergrad at BYU and Masters at USC.
  2. I worked for NASA JPL for 9 years, 7 of which were working on the Curiosity Rover (I made a video about it you should def totes watch cause it’s probably my favorite of all my videos).  Then I created Digital Dudz (made some videos about this too) and eventually sold it after 2 years.  Then I worked for Apple in their Special Projects Group doing Product Design as a Mechanical Engineer for 5 years.  As of 2019, I just make my monthly YouTube videos.
  3. Link to free and therefore substandard build plans for my custom workbench can be found here: (
  4. I made a 30 Day Creative Engineering Class that teaches my end to end engineering process so you can make stuff too!  Check it out here-

Here is the World’s First Automatic Strike Bowling Ball by Mark Rober and friends. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“There’s kind of a Zen aspect to bowling. The pins are either staying up or down before you even throw your arm back. It’s kind of a mind-set. You want to be in this perfect mind-set before you released the ball.” – Jeff Bridges

Further to the Norton I, Emperor of the United States of America Smile: 

Gerry Wahl of North Vancouver, BC, Canada writes:

“And here’s me thinking TRUMP was the first one to do this…”

and Sandy Weames of Campbell River, BC, Canada writes:

“Thank you David.

What a wonderful story, It’s just too bad he wasn’t taken seriously at the time on some issues.

Imagine how advanced human rights would have been in the United States and perhaps around the world if some of his ideas were adopted.



and Pete Roberts of Seattle, Washington State, USA, writes:  


Norton is “so California!” Interesting, as I had no idea!

Hope your Thanksgiving was enjoyable! I am just back from my 50th college reunion. It was a wonderful experience.



Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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