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History of Table Shuffleboard (Part 1)

Our story begins in England,15th Century, where locals played an after dinner game of sliding a “great” (a large coin) down a table. The game was called shove-groat or slide-groat. Later, a silver penny was used and the name of the game became shove-penny. The game was enjoyed by people of all ages, and was a favorite pastime in the great houses of Staffordshire, Winchester and Wiltshire. While our Founding Fathers were busy assembling the makings of this great country, there were shuffleboard matches being held all throughout the colonies.

Shuffleboard in the New World

Despite the quarreling between the Red coats and the colonists, shuffleboard was a popular game enjoyed by both sides. In Arthur Miller’s classic play, “The Crucible”, it was the first written recording of the entrance of shuffleboard into the New World with the line: “In 1692, there was a good supply of ne’er-do-wells who dallied at the shuffleboard in Bridget Bishop’s Tavern.”

In 1848, in New Hanover, Pennsylvania, the case of “The State vs. John Bishop” to determine, “Is shuffle- board a game of chance or a game of skill?” The judge ruled: “Though the defendant kept a public gaming table, as charged, and though diverse persons played thereat and bet spirituous liquors on the game, the game was not a game of chance, but was altogether a game of skill.”

The game shed its crude beginnings when American cabinetmakers such as George Hepplewhite and Duncan Phyfe turned out some of their finest inlaid cabinet work on shuffleboard game tables for the wealthy homes of New York City.

By 1897, shuffleboard warrantied as much space in the metropolitan newspapers in theNew York City area as baseball or boxing matches. Tournaments played by “Big Ed” Morris, Dave Wiley, Alex Scott, Ed Gardland, and George Lavender drew hordes of fans. Shuffleboard made its way across the country. By 1904 it had made its way to California by the way of an avid player, Jim Corbett.

Welcome to Hollywood1940s-Shuffleboard-in America

The intrinsic appeal of the game -skill, diversity, competitiveness, availability to young and old, strong and disabled, the serious game, the fun game, offered the kind of release needed in those turbulent years that were the 1940s. Hollywood climbed on the shuffleboard bandwagon, at first, as a source of good publicity, but then when the pin-up girls and bandleaders and actors discovered they really liked the game, shuffleboards found their way into the studios and homes of the stars.

Beginning of the revival

Shuffleboard grew to its greatest height in the 1950s. Most major shuffleboard manufacturers sponsored nationwide shuffleboard tournaments. Competition among major manufacturers and suppliers, lack of uniform rules and organization, the inability to gain sponsorship of the sport led to a demise of the game in the 1960s and 1970s. By the mid-1980s, shuffleboard experienced a revival, a revival that has extended and strengthened in the 1990s.

To be continued…

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