The Billiard Ball

October 10th Celebrates The Billiard Ball

Today on “Days to Remember” we celebrate how John Wesley Hyatt patented the Billiard Ball on October 10th 1865.

Hyatt was born in Starkey, New York, and began working as a printer when he was 16. Later, he became an inventor, receiving several hundred patents.
Aided by his brother Isaiah, he experimented with Parkesine, a hardened form of nitrocellulose, while researching a substitute for ivory to produce billiard balls.

Before Hyatt coming out with a new way to make billiard cue balls, initially cue balls were made out ivory from elephant tusks, thanks to Hyatt’s inventing a better way to make a cue ball thousands of elephants were saved.

Parkesine had been invented by the English Alexander Parkes in 1862, and is considered the first true plastic, although it was not a success as a commercial or industrial product. Liquid nitrocellulose, or collodion, had been used as early as 1851 by another English inventor, Frederick Scott Archer, in photographic applications; it had also been used extensively as a quick-drying film to protect the fingertips of printers.

Hyatt’s other patented inventions include roller bearings and a multiple-stitch sewing machine. John Wesley Hyatt founded the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company in 1892 in Harrison, New Jersey.

In 1895 he hired Alfred P. Sloan, son of a major investor in the company, as a draftsman. In 1905 he made Sloan president. The company was sold to General Motors in 1916, and Sloan went on to become president of GM.

Who invented the game called Billiards?

The History of billiards is long and very rich. The game has been played by kings and commoners, presidents, mental patients, ladies, gentlemen, and hustlers alike.

It evolved from a lawn game similar to the croquet played some-time during the 15th century in Northern Europe and probably in France. Play moved indoors to a wooden table with green cloth to simulate grass, and a simple border was placed around the edges.

The balls were shoved, rather than struck, with wooden sticks called “maces.” The term “billiard” is derived from French, either from the word “billart”, one of the wooden sticks, or “bille”, a ball.

In 1600, the game was familiar enough to the public that Shakespeare mentioned it in Antony and Cleopatra. Seventy-five years later, the first book of billiards rules remarked of England that there were few “few Tones of note therein which hath not a publick Billiard-Table.”

The word “pool” means a collective bet, or ante. Many non-billiard games, such as poker, involve a pool but it was to pocket billiards that the name became attached. The term “poolroom” now means a place where pool is played, but in the 19th century a poolroom was a betting parlor for horse racing. Pool tables were installed so patrons could pass time between races. The two became connected in the public mind, but the unsavory connotation of “poolroom” came from the betting that took place there, not from billiards.

Eight-Ball was invented shortly after 1900; Straight Pool followed in 1910. Nine-Ball seems to have developed around 1920.

As we make a hole in one today, we celebrate how John Wesley Hyatt patented the Billiard Ball on October 10th 1865.

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell
jdmitchelldesigns@gmail.com

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