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Candlepin Bowling - A Short History

By Edited Aug 14, 2016 0 0

Candlepin bowling is similar to 10-pin bowling, but can be much more challenging.  It has been around for a long time, and the development of candlepin bowling was almost as difficult as the game is.

Most people agree that candlepin bowling first came about in the late 19th century, around 1885 to 1890. Even though the exact date of its inception is unknown, a few references assert that the game has been around for more than 100 years.  The founding place of candlepin bowling was Worcester, Massachusetts.

Three men invented candlepin bowling. Their names are Jack Monsey, Justin P. White, and Jack Sheaf.  Sources indicatd thar when candlepin bowling began the the pins were set up 11 inches away from each other. The original candlepins were around 10” long and had a diameter of 1”. These pins were set up in a triangle design about 5O ft away from the foul line. Since the pins were so long and skinny, they looked rather like candles, giving this version of bowling its name. 

It did not take long for people to realize that pins with these dimensions were extremely difficult to knock down. Combined with a ball that was two pounds and 3” in diameter, it was almost impossible for players to excel at the game. Another challenge was that the candlepins and bowling balls all started out being made of hardwood, making it impossible to have the uniformity that is necessary in bowling.

The rules of candlepin bowling when the sport began included one of the rules from candlepin bowling. The pins that were knocked over were removed from the lane after each shot. It was eventually decided that the pins should remain in place after getting knocked over. The original belief was that this would give the bowler an advantage, although it has since been realized that this is not always the case.

For all of those reasons, changes to candlepin bowling were necessary. The pin size changed to 15 3/4” long and is 1 ¾” on top and bottom, 2 15/16” at the middle of it. The size of the candlepin bowling ball was also increased. While it was 3 inches to begin with, the new maximum size is 4 ½ inches and a maximum weight of 2lbs, 7 oz. The changes in the size of the candlepins and of the bowling ball did indeed improve the scores of candlepin bowlers and made it much more fun for them.  While at the beginning of candlepin bowling a great score was 105-110, professionals today have an average around 140.

Another reason for this improvement is the change in materials that are used to build the pins and bowling balls. Candlepin bowling pins and balls are now made from hard plastic, making them much easier to regulate for weight and size. Pins are now also placed and removed via machine, whereas before this was done by a “pin boy”, which of course, was not nearly as accurate.

Candlepin bowling has indeed come a long way since its inception over a century ago. Now that it is more easily regulated and played it has become more enjoyable to players, as they can actually improve their game without all of the unpredictability.

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