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Bowling facts for kids

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Ten-pin bowling
Lawn Bowling - Tim Mason1
Bowling on a lawn

Bowling is a sport where people roll a heavy ball. It was invented centuries ago when grenades were heavy iron balls. Two main kinds of bowling arose. In one kind the bowler rolls a ball near a target and knocks away the ball of another bowler. This kind includes lawn bowling.

In the more common kind nowadays, the bowler rolls the ball down a bowling lane trying to knock down wooden bowling pins. This kind includes ten-pin bowling, which is so commonplace that it is often simply called "bowling". Some people bowl at smaller pins, called "duck pins" or "candle pins" with slightly different rules.


The usual kind of bowling ball has three holes, where the player puts two fingers and the thumb. The person on the lane swings the ball and lets it go to roll along the lane, attempting to knock down ten wooden pins. If the bowler does not do it right, the ball might not knock all the pins down or might roll into the gutter and hit none. Players take turns rolling their ball down the lane to see who gets the highest score.

Ten-pin bowling scores can be as low as 0 or as high as 300. Players get 10 chances to knock down all of the pins; each chance is called a frame. In each frame, players can try to knock down all of the pins up to two times. Players who do not knock down all of the pins after two tries get up to 9 points for the frame. One point is given for every pin knocked down, if any are knocked down at all. If players are able to knock down all of the pins on the first or second try, they are given 10 points for the frame plus bonus points. Frames in which a player knocks down all of the pins on the first try are scored as a strike. A strike is worth 10 points plus the number of pins knocked down by the player during their next two tries. If players do not score a strike but knock down all remaining on their second try, the frame is scored as a spare. A spare is worth 10 points plus the number of pins knocked down on the next try.

Players who score a strike or spare on their 10th frame are allowed to roll the ball up to two additional times to score their bonus points.


Ancient history

1895 - Skittles bowling game - Naqada, Egypt - 1895 archeologist drawing
Archeologist's drawing of items found in 1895 in an ancient tomb in Naqada, Egypt, thought to resemble the more modern game of skittles. The archeologist conjectured as to the particular arrangement of the items found.

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 3200 BC and miniature pins and balls in an Egyptian child's grave about 3200 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

Peasants bowling in front of a tavern in the 17th century
The Bowling Game (Jan Steen, c. 1655). Many Dutch Golden Age paintings depicted bowling.

English King Henry VIII was an avid bowler. In 1511, 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 then 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.

Often associated with gambling, bowling often had a negative image. This 1800 English mayor instructed "putting a stop to the growing evil of skittle and bowling alleys ... to take care that there are as few inducements as possible for the thoughtless husband to spend his substance to the detriment of his family."
To project a higher image, this 1838 New York newspaper ad for the Knickerbocker Hotel's three bowling alleys boasted "excellent accommodations" and appealed to "gentlemen to perform their ablutions".

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; he replied, "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

Though the origin of ten-pin bowling is often attributed to the U.S., this circa-1810 painting from Ipswich, England shows outdoor bowling with ten pins.
This 1820 Indiana (U.S.) newspaper ad touts a "Ball and Ten Pin Alley" to attract customers to a bakery.
An 1838 Indiana newspaper describes how ten-pin bowling alleys were constructed to evade a Baltimore statute prohibiting nine-pin bowling.
A tongue-in-cheek illustration of a bowling alley, from the cover of Harpers Weekly magazine (U.S., 1860)
An 1890 Bowler's Guide describes how "innings" or "rolls" (now called frames) involved up to three balls played in succession.
Palace Bowling Alleys in the Music Hall in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, circa 1895. Note the different-sized bowling balls.

A circa 1810 painting of Ipswich, England shows a man bowling with a triangular formation of ten pins, before that variant of the sport is believed to have appeared in the United States. An 1828 auction notice, also in Ipswich, explicitly mentions "ten-pin and skittle grounds".

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.

By the late 1830s, New York's Knickerbocker Hotel housed a bowling alley with three lanes.

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 contain 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). 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.

American Bowling Congress, Bowling Tournament, Milwaukee, Wis LCCN2007663973
An early bowling tournament (1905; American Bowling Congress; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.)

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 "Evertrue" rubber bowling ball, and the Brunswick "Mineralite" rubber ball by 1905. Columbia Industries, founded in 1960, was the first manufacturer to successfully use polyester resin ("plastic") in bowling balls. In 1980, urethane-shell bowling balls were introduced by Ebonite.

Rules for target bowls evolved separately in each of the other countries that adopted the predominantly British game. In 1905, the International Bowling Board was formed; its constitution adopted the laws of the Scottish Bowling Association, with variations allowed at the individual country level.

In September 1907, the Victorian Ladies' Bowling Association was founded in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, becoming the world's first women's lawn bowling association.

In 1908, the now-oldest surviving bowling alley for the tenpin sport was opened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the basement of the Holler House tavern, containing the oldest sanctioned lanes in the United States.

In 1909, the first ten-pin bowling alley in Europe was installed in Sweden, but the game failed to catch on in the rest of Europe until after World War II. Meanwhile, ten-pin bowling caught on in Great Britain after hundreds of bowling lanes were installed on U.S. military bases during World War II.

In 1913, the monthly Bowlers Journal was founded in Chicago, Illinois, continuing to publish to the present day.

In late 1916, the Women's International Bowling Congress (originally the Woman's National Bowling Association) was founded in Saint Louis, Missouri, merging with the United States Bowling Congress in 2005.

19190100 Duckpin and ten-pin bowling lanes - Red Cross
Side-by-side duckpin and ten-pin bowling lanes. The duckpin ball has no finger holes, whereas the ten-pin bowling balls of the day (photo circa 1919) had only a single finger hole in addition to a thumb hole.

In 1920–1933 Prohibition in the U.S. caused bowling alleys to disassociate from saloons, turning bowling into a family game and encouraging women bowlers.

On 2 October 1921, the annual Petersen Open Bowling Tournament (a.k.a. The Pete) was first held in Chicago, Illinois, becoming bowling's richest tournament of the day. In 1998, it was taken over by AMF.

In 1926, the International Bowling Association (IBA) was formed by the United States, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, and Finland, holding four world championships by 1936.

On 21 March 1934, the National Bowling Writers Association was founded in Peoria, Illinois, by four bowling journalists; it changed its name in 1953 to the Bowling Writers Association of America.

In August 1939, the National Negro Bowling Association was founded in Detroit, Michigan, dropping Negro from the title in 1944 and opening membership to all races. It reached 30,000 members in 2007.

In 1942, the Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA) held its first BPAA All-Star tournament.

In 1947, the Australian Women's Bowling Council was founded. It held the first Australian women's national lawn bowling championship in Sydney in 1949, which was won by Mrs. R. Cranley of Queensland.

On 18 April 1948, the Professional Women Bowling Writers (PWBW) was founded in Dallas, Texas, admitting men in 1975. On 1 January 2007, it merged with the Bowling Writers Association of America.

In 1950, following extensive lobbying by civil rights groups in the wake of the 1947 integration of Major League Baseball, the American Bowling Congress opened its membership to African Americans and other minorities. The WIBC followed suit the following year.

About 1950, the Golden Age of Ten-Pin Bowling began, in which professional bowlers made salaries rivaling those of baseball, football, and hockey players; this ended in the late 1970s.

In 1951, the first ABC Masters tournament was held, becoming one of the four majors by 2000.

In 1952, the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ) was founded in Hamburg, Germany, to coordinate international amateur competition in nine-pin and ten-pin bowling. In 1954, the first FIQ World Bowling Championships were held in Helsinki, Finland. In 1979, the International Olympic Committee recognized it as the official world governing body for bowling. Its name changed to World Bowling in 2014 and International Bowling Federation in 2020.

In 1952, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) of Brooklyn, New York, began marketing automatic Pinsetter machines. This eliminated the need for pinboys and caused bowling to rocket in popularity, making the 1950s the Decade of the Bowler.

In 1954, Steve Nagy (1913–1966) became the first person to bowl a perfect 300 game on TV on NBC-TV's "Championship Bowling". The PBA later named its sportsmanship award after him.

Dick Weber (1986)

In 1958, the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) was founded in Akron, Ohio by 33 prominent bowlers (including Don Carter, Dick Weber, Dick Hoover, Buzz Fazio, Billy Welu, Carmen Salvino and Glenn Allison) after they listened to a presentation by sports agent Eddie Elias. The PBA eventually reached about 4,300 members in 14 countries worldwide. In 1975, Earl Anthony became the first PBA member with $100,000 yearly earnings, and the first to reach $1,000,000 total earnings in 1982. In 2000, it was purchased by former executives of Microsoft, who moved the PBA headquarters to Seattle, Washington.

On 28 November 1960, the first PBA Championship in Memphis, Tennessee was won by Don Carter. It was renamed the PBA World Championship in 2002, and now awarded the Earl Anthony Trophy to the winner.

In 1960, the Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA) was founded as the first professional women's bowling association; it went defunct in 2003.

In 1960, the National Bowling League (NBL) was founded to compete with the PBA. It attracted name players such as Billy Welu and Buzz Fazio, but failed to sign top star Don Carter. The league's failure to get a TV contract caused it to fold following its first championship in 1962.

On 26 May 1961 the British Tenpin Bowling Association (BTBA) was formed. Their first General Secretary was Maurice Glazer.

On 27 January 1962, ABC Television aired its first Saturday afternoon broadcast of a PBA Tour event, the Empire State Open held at Redwood Lanes in Albany, New York, beginning a partnership between ABC and the PBA that lasted through 1997. The Saturday afternoon bowling telecasts garnered very good ratings through the early 1980s, until the cable television-fueled explosion of sports viewing choices caused ratings to decline.

In 1961, the U.S. Navy Seabees constructed two lanes at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Stuffed penguin "pins" were used in the inauguration.
The McMurdo lanes, among very few in the world to still have human pinsetters, were dismantled in 2009/2010 due to structural problems in the building.

In 1962, the first PBA Tournament of Champions was held; it became an annual event in 1965, and was sponsored by Firestone Tire from 1965 through 1993.

In 1962, the American Wheelchair Bowling Association (AWBA) was founded in Louisville, Kentucky, by Richard F. Carlson.

On 28 June 1963, The first British made tenpin was by H Massil and sons who received the permit no.1 from the British Tenpin Bowling Association (BTBA)

Between 3 and 10 November 1963, the Fifth FIQ World Bowling Championships in Mexico City, Mexico, were attended by 132 men and 45 women (first time) from 19 nations. It featured the debut of Team USA, which won seven of the eight gold medals.

On 25 November 1963, Sports Illustrated published the article "A Guy Named Smith Is Striking It Rich", revealing that PBA stars made more money than other professional sports stars, for "with more than $1 million in prizes to shoot for, the nation's top professional bowlers are rolling in money." This was short-lived, however, for although the number of bowling alleys in the U.S. zoomed from 65,000 in 1957 to 160,000 in 1962, the U.S. bowling industry boom hit a brick wall in 1963. This was compensated, however, by a new boom in Europe and Japan, making 10-pin bowling an international sport.

In 1964, "Mr. Bowling" Don Carter became the first athlete to sign a $1 million endorsement contract: a multi-year deal with Ebonite International.

In 1964, Marion Ladewig, a nine-time winner of the Bowling Writers Association of America's Female Bowler of the Year Award, became the first Superior Performance inductee into the WIBC Hall of Fame.

In 1965, the AMF Bowling World Cup was established by the FIQ.

On 27 January 1967, the Japan Professional Bowling Association (JPBA) was founded in Tokyo, Japan.

In 1971, the BPAA All-Star tournament was renamed the BPAA U.S. Open, and officially became one of the PBA's major tournaments.

In 1978, National Negro Bowling Association pioneer J. Elmer Reed (1903–1983) became the first African-American to be inducted into the ABC Hall of Fame.

On 16 December 1979, Willie Willis won the Brunswick National Resident Pro Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, becoming the first African-American bowling champion in the PBA in a non-touring event. In 1980, he became the first African-American in the Firestone Tournament of Champions, placing 13th.

On 27 February 1982, Earl Anthony won the Toledo Trust PBA National Championship, becoming the first bowler to reach $1 million in career earnings.

In 1982, the Young American Bowling Alliance was formed from a merger of the American Junior Bowling Congress, the Youth Bowling Association, and the collegiate divisions of the ABC and WIBC.

In 1982, the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, added women's bowls to the events.

On 1 July 1982, former PBA pro Glenn Allison rolled the first 900 series (three consecutive 300 games in a three-game set) to ever be submitted to the ABC for award consideration. The ABC, however, refused to certify the score, citing non-complying lane conditions.

On 22 November 1986, George Branham III (born 1962) became the first African-American to win a PBA national touring event: the Brunswick Memorial World Open in Chicago, Illinois.

On 18 September 1988, the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, featured ten-pin bowling as a demonstration sport.

On 2 August 1991, in Havana, Cuba, tenpin bowling became an international medal-level sport for the first time at the 1991 Pan American Games, and continues to this day.

In the 1992–1993 season, the ABC introduced resin bowling balls, causing perfect 300 scores to increase by 20%.

In 1995, the first Best Bowler ESPY Award was presented.

In 1995, the National Bowling Stadium opened in Reno, Nevada, becoming known as the Taj Mahal of Tenpins.

On 2 February 1997, Jeremy Sonnenfeld (born 1975) bowled the first officially sanctioned 900 series of three straight perfect 300 games at Sun Valley Lanes in Lincoln, Nebraska, becoming known as "Mr. 900".

In 1998, the World Tenpin Masters 10-pin bowling tournament was established.

In 2000, the Weber Cup, named after Dick Weber, was established as 10-pin bowling's equivalent to golf's Ryder Cup, with Team USA playing Team Europe in a three-day match.

In the 21st century

1969- Number of sanctioned perfect games in ten-pin bowling, per sanctioned bowler
The number of sanctioned perfect (300) games per league bowler has increased substantially since the 1990s. Freeman and Hatfield posit that the increase in perfect games is due to factors such as the introduction of reactive resin coverstocks, asymmetric ball cores, synthetic lane surfaces, and precision lane oiling machines.

On 31 March 2004, Missy Bellinder (born 1981) (later changing her name to Parkin) became the first female member of the PBA. The PBA had opened up its membership to women following the 2003 demise of the PWBA. One year later, Liz Johnson became the first woman to make the televised final round of a PBA Tour event.

In 2004, the Brunswick Euro Challenge was founded for amateur and pro 10-pin bowling players from Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

On 24 January 2010, Kelly Kulick (born 1977) became the first woman to win the PBA Tournament of Champions and the first woman to win a PBA national tour event.

In November 2012, after league bowling dropped from 80% to 20% of their business, AMF Bowling Centers of Richmond, Virginia filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second time (first in 2001), merging in 2013 with upscale New York-based bowling center operator Bowlmor (which did not support league bowling) in an attempt to turn league bowling around, growing from 276 centers in 2013 to 315 in 2015.

In 2013, the PBA League was founded, composed of eight permanent five-person teams, with an annual draft.

In 2015, the Professional Women's Bowling Association (PWBA) was revived after a 12-year hiatus.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bolos para niños

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