A Brief Note on Gambling in a 19th Century Bowling Alley

I received an interesting inquiry regarding the last excerpt I posted here (the 5th,) wherein I mention that James Earp worked in a bowling alley in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881.

The inquiry questioned the validity of this information, and the existence of a bowling alley in the 19th Century. This immediately interested me as well.  It has admittedly been a while since I looked into this, and I was equally surprised by the history of the bowling alley.  My research revealed that in 1881 bowling alleys were used for gambling.  Thus explaining why a confidence man and gambler would be working in a bowling alley.  And they were also often masked as “Saloons” — probably for the purpose of evading a city ordinance. Re: “Vogan and Flynn’s Saloon and Bowling Alley”

The information regarding the Earp brother working in such an establishment, is accurate and was taken directly from verified documentation.  But the existence of a bowling alley in 1881 is nonetheless, a curiosity.  I have provided links below to validate. For even further information about the specific establishment mentioned above, please contact the city of Tombstone, Arizona, via their website.

– legal code from 19th Century, mentions “bowling alley”: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=67.14&full=true

– more good info on the history of bowling alleys: http://www.tenpinbowling.org/view.php?page=the_game.history

– also see paragraph here marked “City Growth and Decline”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tombstone,_Arizona

– this is a later image from 1910, but it gives the reader a visual idea of what a bowling alley looked like in the 19’th Century: http://theboweryboys.blogspot.com/2009/04/bowling-brooklyn-style-100-years-ago.html


2 responses

  1. Steve Chaput

    My father worked as a Pinboy for a club in the 1930s. He tells me they used to sit above the pins on a shelf and lean down to replace the pins. From his discription it wasn’t much of an advance from what these boys are doing.

    May 29, 2011 at 5:56 PM

  2. Wow, that’s fascinating! I never would have known that! Obviously, bowling alleys of the past were way more interesting than the skeevy ones of today.

    June 2, 2011 at 9:56 AM

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