How many of you pool shooting guys and gals know how the game you love to play started?
According to Mike Shamos, Curator of The Billiard Archive, a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve the history of billiards, or pool, this popular game evolved from a lawn game. It was a lawn game similar to croquet played sometime in the 15th century in Northern Europe. Shamos reports that kings, presidents, commoners, and hustlers alike all played this game. He doesn’t report why but the game was moved indoors and played on a wooden table. The table was covered with a green cloth to simulate a lawn and a simple border placed on the four edges to prevent the balls from falling off the table. According to Shamos, the balls were shoved, not struck, with sticks called maces.
When the ball(s) ended up near a rail, players had difficulty using the maces because the head of the maces were too large; the mace was a stick similar to the golf club.
As a result of that difficulty, the mace would be flipped so that the player used the handle side of it to shove the ball. The handle was the “queue” or the “tail” of the mace; this was when the “cue” stick was developed, and this was in the late 1600’s. Would you believe: according to Shamos, only men were allowed to use the cue; and because they were thought to be more likely to rip the cloth using the cue, women were forced to use the mace!
According to Wikipedia, the word “billiard” comes from the French word billart or billette, which means stick; and the origin of that word is from the French word bille, which means ball.
The edges placed on the tables to prevent the balls from falling off were said to resemble river banks. Players realized the balls bounced off the edges and began using them as part of their shots, developing the term “bank shot”.
According to Shamos, the “chalk was used to increase friction between the ball and the cue stick even before cues had tips. The leather cue tip, with which a player can apply side-spin to the ball, was perfected by 1823. Visitors from England showed Americans how to use spin, which explains why it is called “English” in the United States but nowhere else. (The British themselves refer to it as “side”.) The two-piece cue arrived in 1829. Slate became popular as a material for table beds around 1835. Goodyear discovered vulcanization of rubber in 1839 and by 1845 it was used to make billiard cushions. A two-to-one ratio of length to width became standard in the 18th century. Before then, there were no fixed table dimensions. By 1850, the billiard table had essentially evolved into its current form.”