Beyond enjoying the game, you must have a basic understanding and details of Billiards to command respect in the sport.
Billiard players, especially professionals, are expected to have accurate and updated information about their favorite game.
Because, some questions can occasionally arise while talking about the game, a debate, or an argument that demands a detailed response from billiards players and fans.
One such question that is yet to fade away is: when was billiards invented? If at one point, you have stumbled upon this question without getting or providing any exact response, then this information is for your benefit.
When was billiards invented: Its roots
The term Billiards came from two French words; ‘billart,’ which means wooden stick, and then, ‘bille’ meaning ball.
Billiard has one of the longest and richest histories you could find in the sporting industry.
So when was billiards invented? Its history dates as far back as in the 15th century in Northern Europe.
The game started first, probably in France, as a lawn game with the same similarity as the croquet played during that time. Similar to the croquet, the billiard balls were moved through an object just like the wick.
The balls were shoved with a large tipped wooden stick known as mace. From a first outdoor field game, Billiards gradually evolved into an indoor game. It is now played on a wooden table with a green surface used to simulate grass.
To prevent the balls from falling off the table, a simple border in the form of rails was placed around the table’s edges.
Right from its inception, billiards maintained steady growth in popularity.
This growth in familiarity among the public earned the game mention in one of Shakespeare’s plays, “Antony and Cleopatra,” written in 1600.
Around the early years of the 18th century, the now indoor billiards became a past-time favored for the French nobles, including English gentry.
Given the interest of kings and nobles in playing the game, it was fondly called the “Noble Game of Billiards.”
Development of Billiards Playing Equipment
As the game evolved and developed further, there was a need also to make the necessary adjustment to the equipment used in the game.
Aided by the technological advances witnessed during the Industrial Revolution that took place in the 19th century, most Billiards playing equipment was developed to take the form in which they are known today.
- The Billiards Cue Stick
The first tool used in moving the billiards ball was Mace – a wooden stick.
However, people began to observe limitations with the mace. It was difficult using the mace to play a ball positioned close to the rail.
This was because the mace had a large head. In such situations, players often turn the mace around and use the handle to shove the ball.
In the late 1600s, the cue stick was developed.
It was named “cue” from the name of the mace handle, “queue.” Initially, only men were allowed to use the cue stick, while women still maintained the mace.
In the 18th century, an improvement was made to the cue stick with the addition of the leather cue tipping to it.
This cue tip aided players in applying trick shots to the ball like topspin, side-spin, and backspin. In 1829, the first two-piece cue was produced in Europe.
- The Pool Table
The initial Billiard table that was used when the game went indoors was a flat walled rail table.
The table rail, which was called “banks” because it resembled the riverbank, had just one function; to prevent the balls from falling off the table. With time, players discovered that balls could bounce off the rails.
So, they deliberately began to aim at the rails, therefore giving birth to the “bank shot.” In taking the bank shot, players aim that the ball will rebound off a cushion and roll into a pocket.
Up until 1835, when slate began to be used for production, the primary material for the creation of the billiards table was wood.
After its introduction as a production material, slate became more popular and preferred because of its durability for play, and inability to wrap overtime.
Before the 18th century, there were no fixed dimensions for the billiards table, but in 1850, the two-to-one ratio of length to width was adopted as the standard size of a billiard table.
By then, the evolution of the billiard table into the current form, as we know now, was essentially completed.
Turning times experienced in the history of the billiards game
In answering the question,” when was billiards invented?” your attention should also be drawn to the few defining moments in the games’ history.
After World War II, returning soldiers and other individuals aimed at rebuilding what was lost; houses, careers, etc. As a result of that, the excitement of playing billiards began dying gradually.
And from the closure of one Playroom to the other, Billiards seems to be going into extinction.
It took two electrifying events to return Billiards to relevance.
First of the two was the release of “The Hustler,” a 1961 movie. In the film, Paul Newman played the role of a pool hustler.
New pool rooms began to open and flourish as a result of the movie.
Another decline in interest in billiards occurred after the Vietnam War. But then, Paul Newman featured a movie, “The Color of Money,” which was released in 1986.
Billiard games experienced another upsurge after the film with the opening and up-scaling of pool rooms.
As seen, Billiards has undergone various forms of evolution to get to the game we all know and enjoy today.
Another area where the game has witnessed evolution is the participation of women in the sport. From the time billiards was invented, women weren’t allowed to participate freely in the game.
However, as the game evolved, women were gradually incorporated.
When was billiards invented? We now know its old! with its roots in the 15th century until today, all forms of billiards has evolved to the point that it’s almost unrecognizable from those early days.
and it still continues to evolve and grow as a sport.
Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.