A Brief History of Billiards - Who invented billiards and pool?

History of Billiards.Billiard Table - BookGame

Billiards is a sport with a long and extremely rich history. It intertwines British, French and later American influences. Are you wondering what billiards has in common with cricket and when the game was first played at a table resembling those of today? Read on!


Billiards history - a saga that began much earlier than you think

When do you think the origins of billiards took place? If your thoughts are directed, for example, to the 18th-19th century English court, then... you are wrong. When it comes to billiards, the story begins much earlier. Traces lead at least to the 15th century - when it comes to games played on a table. 

However, looking at the sport in a broader perspective - as a game in which players push some kind of balls with a stick - one can look even further for inspiration. One need only mention croquet - a French game known as early as ca. 1340,  remembering, of course, that the matches were played outdoors, on grass (green, like the cloth of a pool table!), and the cues used were nothing those used during a game of snooker, pool billiards or even carom.

So when did the history of billiards really begin - that is, at what point did tables enter the game (literally and figuratively)?

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Who invented billiards?

It is certain that the name comes from the French language, but is it from the word "bilart," which designated the wooden bat used in the game of cricket, or from "bille," meaning ball/ball? Taking into account that today the term "balls" is more commonly used - it is the second theory that seems more likely. France is also considered the home of the sport. Therefore, the question "who invented billiards" must be answered: the French! You can even "trace" the moment when this game entered the salons. It was at the request of King Louis XI - in 1469.


From croquet to billiards - who invented the pool table ?


There is an interesting story connected with it. Billiards was born when bored aristocrats wanted to move the games of the aforementioned croquet to palace interiors. This caused ... serious damage to the elegantly decorated halls. Therefore, the monarch commissioned his court carpenter, Henry de Vigne, to design a table for the game.This is how the first billiard table was created. Like those of today, it had high rails - all to keep the balls in the playing area. However, it did not have the well-known shells, or pockets, of today. And this by the way, is how it is in French billiards - carom - to this day.




The history of billiards does not end with France!

Although the answer to the question of who invented the pool table is clear, the further history of the sport leads to different corners of the world. Remaining in France for a while, it is worth mentioning that one of Napoleon's soldiers invented a leather cue tip to improve the precision of cue balls. On the other hand, the balls themselves were made from various materials - first from wooden knots, then from ivory (very expensive), as well as from clay, celluloid or metal. Today the balls are made of plastic with the addition of resin (mainly phenolic) and this is the secret of their durability.


Pursuing the brief history of billiards leads us further to the Anglo-Saxon countries. The English were quickly inspired by the French fashion and... adapted it into their own. It was here that were first developed, tables with pockets for balls - still used today in snooker (that is, English billiards), but also in American pool billiards (which has plenty of variations!). Interestingly, in the States it is also said it was played by George Washington himself! It was also in the USA that billiards came out of the "salons" and became popular among the masses. The first billiard clubs were established there as early as the first half of the 19th century, the most famous being New York's Bassford's. It was also in America that the first tournaments were played - games began as early as 1878. To this day "pool" has the status of a cult sport there, but now it is played in almost all corners of the world.



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