A Look At The Rich History & Cultural Significance Of Pool

A Look At The Rich History & Cultural Significance Of Pool

Pool, which is also known as billiards, carries a history stretching over centuries. It’s not an ordinary game - emperors, nobles, people from the working classes, and presidents have shared the passion for pool throughout history.  

The Origins of Billiards

Billiards began as a lawn game in Northern Europe in the 15th century and gradually evolved to its present form - a pool table. Billiards has always been a game favored by the royalty, a fact that gained it the title of "Noble Game of Billiards." The popularity of billiards from ancient times is evident from the fact that Shakespeare mentioned it in one of its plays.  

The Transformation of the Mace to Cue

Originally, the balls were shoved with wooden sticks known as maces before developing the cue sticks in the 1600s. The handle was called “queue,” which later began being called “cue.” In those days, the table required chalking to bring about friction between the billiard ball and the cue stick and enhance performance—moreover, all the cues comprised of a single shaft before the two-piece cue's invention in 1829. 

1878-1956 was a period where pool and billiard championships were held yearly and included one-on-one challenges. The popularity of the game reached such an extent that billiard results began receiving even more coverage in the media during the civil war than war news. The players’ fame reached such heights that cigarette cards began featuring them. It was also a popular recreation for the troops at war. 


Billiard’s social element

In the late 1920s, the poolroom environment was typical of a bar or pub. Men would hang out, smoke, drink, fight, place bets, and play in the poolrooms. However, it was drastically different from what we have today. 


It was not until the 19th century that women entered the game of billiards, the reason being an atmosphere that thoroughly discouraged women. Billiard games did not accept women, like most other sports and social activities from whom women were forbidden in those times.  It was notoriously difficult for the women to gain billiard skills and learn its tricks and techniques due to a lack of support from the male-dominated billiard fraternity and family. With the change of times, women can now be expected to gain an equal status or even supersede men when it comes to the ancient game. 

Regardless, women quickly emerged as passionate players when the sport began gaining mainstream status. Women of fashion, socialites, and the nobles' wives have played the game for over two hundred years. 

The Decline and Subsequent Revival of Pool 

The game that had reached its prime before the World War couldn’t keep up with the changing times as the war came to an end. The society that emerged from the soldiers returning from their postings wanted to rebuild quickly and had little place for the time that went into afternoons spent in the pool rooms. By the 1950s, the game had exited the mainstream as if it never existed, only to be brought back by the 1961 movie, “The Hustler.” 

The black and white movie starred Paul Newman and portrayed the miserable life of a hustler. It led to the emergence of new pool rooms before the Vietnam war led to another decline in pool popularity. However, Paul Newman once again became the game’s savior when a scene showing him and his co-star, Tom Cruise, playing pool revived interest in the game in "The Color of Money" in 1987. Once again, upscale pool rooms popped up all over the country, with the young people flocking to get a taste of the game.