Bowling can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt in 5200 B.C., thanks to items that were found in a child’s tomb. The very first equipment included nine pieces of stone and a “ball,” which would be rolled through a marble archway towards the stones. Bowling pins weren’t used until the 17th century, most likely started in Germany, and it was considered more of a religious ceremony then a sport back then.
The first indoor bowling lanes were designed and used by the English in 1455. At one point, Sir Francis Drake, a 16th century English sailor, even insisted on finishing his final frame before taking action against the Spanish Armada as they were attacking his fleet. He is credited with introducing the game to many different cultures as he traveled around the globe.
Bowling was first known to be played in America by Dutch settlers in 1626 on Manhattan Island, and grew in popularity overtime. Connecticut even took the step of outlawing nine-pin bowling in 1842 due to the heavy gambling that the game had become involved in. Those who loved the game were able to bypass this law by using ten pins, all arranged in a triangle. This set-up, and all other standardized rules, was made official by the American Bowling Congress in 1895, and the first major tournament was finally held in 1901. This organization was followed up by the Women’s International Bowling Congress in 1916, which held the first women’s tournament in 1917, and the Young American Bowlers Alliance in 1982, which promoted the sport to children and teens. All three organizations finally merged in 2005, forming what is now known as the United States Bowling Congress.
The early 1900’s also saw many important advances for the game that are present to this day. For centuries, the ball itself was made of hard wood. This was later changed to rubber in 1905, and again to plastic during the late 1950’s. They are now made from a reactive resin and small amounts of urethane for true sturdiness. Fingerholes also weren’t widely used until the end of the 19th century, and the introduction of the three-hole ball in 1930 made the design even more popular. Before pinsetters were invented, young children would sit at the end of each lane to clear and reset the pins after each bowl. This changed when the automatic pinsetter was invented in 1936, making the game even more efficient and safe. Manual scoring was also done away with in the 1970s, thanks to the introduction of automatic scoring systems, which also prove to be a source of entertainment. And once bumper guards and cosmic bowling came into play, fun for all ages was all but guaranteed.