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Duckpin Bowling History


Duckpin Bowling History

The sport of Duckpin Bowling began, crudely speaking, in Maryland during the summer of 1900. While most Ten-pin bowling centers closed for the summer months, a very select few would remain open for practice. The bowlers would practice, however, with a ball only about 6 inches in diameter. Bowlers would play games such as "back five," using only the 5,7,8,9, and 10 pins, and "cocked hat," which used only the 1,7,and 10 pins.

During the summer of 1900, some bowlers at Diamond Alleys in Baltimore thought it might be interesting to resize the pins to match the 6 inch ball. Manager John Van Sant used a wood turner to do exactly that. A new bowling game was born.

While the rules remained almost identical to those of the Ten-pin game, one rule change was made: A bowler is allowed to use three bowls on each turn. Strikes would still be strikes and spares still spares, but when all pins were knocked down on the third ball, it counts as a score of ten.

Van Sant demonstrated the new game to the owners of Diamond Alleys, John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson. Being avid duck hunters, McGraw and Robinson thought the small pins flying around looked a bit like a "flock of flying ducks."

That was the beginning of Duckpin Bowling. While the game would continue as only a summer sport for the next few years, winter leagues were organized in Baltimore in 1903 and in Washington, D. C., in 1904.

The popularity of Duckpin Bowling began to soar in the 1920's, stretching from New England to Georgia. Rules were, for the most part, standardized, but bowling balls, pins, and lanes were not. Standardization would finally come with the formation of the National Duckpin Bowling Congress (NDBC) in 1927. In today's game, the ball is no larger than five inches and 3 lbs 12 oz in weight, while the pins stand 9.406 inches tall.

Duckpin bowling would continue to grow to a peak of 300,000 sanctioned bowlers in 1967. The dropoff in sanctioned bowlers and bowling centers has been dramatic since, but the sport is still strong in certain regions. The sport remains very popular in the Baltimore-Washington D. C. area, as well as the Connecticut-Rhode Island region.

We are proud to say that Bowling Academy has its place in Duckpin Bowling history. The first ever automatic Duckpin pinsetters, invented and installed by Ken Sherman, were tested on what are now lanes 15 and 16 at Bowling Academy.

Bowling History courtesy of: Hickock's Sports History