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Billiard History – A Brief Timeline
The term “billiards” comes from the French word “bille”, meaning “ball”, referring to the game with a ball and stick, and the word “art”, representing the art of the game. Billiards has been around for many centuries and originated as a lawn game in most of the world over 700 years ago. Nowadays, it is typical to see a pool table in every bar or tavern you walk into. Many people also have them at home, but this was not always the case. When billiards originated, it was already played outdoors in the thirteenth century and from there it moved indoors to tables. Wooden sticks called “mace” were used to poke (rather than stroke) wooden and ivory billiard balls. Maces were eventually modified into cue sticks due to the difficulty of shots near the rails with maces.
Many important historical figures owned pool tables and in many countries. These famous personalities include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, King James I of England and Kings Louis III, XIV, XV of France. and XVI. It is even recorded that the French king Louis XI. he bought a pool table as early as 1470. Over time, pool became more popular in bars, inns, and taverns, and therefore became more common among the common people. Below is a brief historical timeline of how the game of pool was born.
• 13th century:
o 1200: Bat and ball lawn games are invented and spread rapidly
• 15th century:
o 1470: French King Louis XI. he bought his own pool table
o Late 1400s: billiards moved from outside on the grass to inside on the table
• 16th century:
o 16th century: The popularity of “table billiards” spreads among the nobility in France and England
• 17th century:
o 1600: Billiards become more popular among common people in public places
o 1674: “The Complete Gamester”, one of the first ever billiard instructional publications, was written by Charles Cotton of England.
• 18th century:
o 1773: Carambole introduced in France
o 1775: The “One Pocket” idea was developed.
o 1797: Cotton and wool replaced with new fabric to improve smoothness and friction
• 19th century:
o 1807: Carombole becomes popular in England and begins to be known as the game of billiards
o 1820s: The mace becomes virtually obsolete, replaced only by the cue
o 1823: The perfection of the leather tip of the cue significantly increases the use of “spin”
o 1826: John Thurston of England developed the first slate tables to replace the old wooden ones
o 1845: New railroad cushions developed from vulcanized rubber by Goodyear.
o 1850s: The pool “industry” is born, including companies like Sheraton’s and Gillow
o 1860: John Brunswick joins the Phelan-Collender Group to form the Brunswick Corporation
o 1860: Billiard table claims existing in every state of the Union.
o 1868: Development of new billiard balls made of cellulose nitrate (called “celluloid”) to replace wooden and ivory balls
o 1870: 1st officially recognized English snooker championship played between John Roberts and William Cook
o 1892: The first official standard pool table is manufactured by Thurston & Co.
• 20th century:
o 1900: Snooker recognized by the Billiard Association
o 1901: 8-Ball invented
o 1910: Straight Pool invented
o 1920: Development of the 9-Ball
o 1970s: Crystal and celluloid pool balls replace cast resin balls and improve accuracy in size, weight and shape
Many improvements over the centuries have led billiards and billiards to what they are today. Pool games have been a pastime around the world for years, and current trends show that they will continue to do so for some time to come.
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