Billiard Facts

I found this list of billiard facts on the website mentioned below.  Lots of these facts hide many stories and they offer you a nice snapshot of the rich history of the game of billiards. To enrich these facts, placed in bold, I added information in italic format, pictures and links.

Source Facts

1.The game of billiards (pool) evolved from a lawn game similar to croquet played sometime during the 15th century somewhere in Europe (probably in France).

Francois Villon, the french medieval poet, mentions a "billart" in his work "Le Petit Testament", written in 1461-1462 and published in 1489. Details can be found on . The author probably means the curved stick with which balls were pushed on a lawn.  He does not mean a billard table. In the 15th century the scarce sources mostly refer to a game played outside on the ground. In this work he mentions several games.
Item plus, je adjoinctz à la Crosse
Celle de la rue Sainct-Anthoine,
Et ung billart de quoy on crosse,
Et tous les jours plain pot de Seine,
Aux pigons qui sont en l'essoine,
Enserrez soubz trappe volière,
Et mon mirouer bel et ydoyne,
Et la grace de la geollière. 

The picture below comes from the book Sports et Jeux d'Adresse written by Henry René d'Allemagne (archiviste-paléographe, bilbiothécaire à la bibliothèque de l'Arsenal) and published in 1903 by Hachette Librairie.
Le jeu de billard en terre au XVI siècle
D’après une gravure sur bois tirée du « Receuil des Amours de Gombault et de Macée »

Afbeelding invoegen

2.The term "pool room” means a place where billiards is played, but in the 19th century a pool room was a betting parlor for horse races. Billiard tables were installed so patrons could pass time between the races. The game of billiards and the pool room became connected in the public’s mind. Today, the two terms are both used interchangeably.

3.The dome on Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, conceals a billiard (pool) room. In Thomas Jefferson's day, billiards (pool) was illegal in Virginia.
Other well known figures that love(d)to play billiards : Louis XIV, Amadeus Mozart, Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln, Marc Twain, Fred Astaire, Montgomery Clift, Ernest Hemingway, James Caan, Dustin Hoffmann, Mozart, Marie Antoinette, Immanuel Kant, George Washington, French president Jules Grévy, Charles Dickens, George Armstrong Custer, Theodore Roosevelt, Lewis Carroll, W.C. Fields, Babe Ruth, Bob Hope, Mary Stuart of Scotland, Georg Ohm, Pope Pius IX, King Boudewijn of Belgium.

4.Billiards or Pool is one of the safest sports around the world.
Although it all started with a murder case, if we may believe U.S. billiard historian William Hendricks. The oldest source (sadly not documented) mentioned in his book, relates to outside ground billiards and goes back to 1350. Hendricks found "une lettre de pardon” (a letter asking for forgiveness) written in Latin about a game played in France between Pierre Symon en Jacques de Pont Habert.  Jacques hit Pierre over the head with his billiard(stick). Pierre would not survive. Jacques asked for forgiveness in a letter probably to shorten his sentence, a common practice in that era.

5.There are 15 colored balls in billiards, 7 "solid”, 7 "striped” and the black eight ball.

There are 3 balls in the most common carom billiards games, always containing a red ball.  Both players have their own cue ball. In order to distinct these, they can be either white and yellow or a second white with a black or red dot.  In 3-cushion billiards (also a carom game) one also plays more and more with a dotted white, yellow and red ball in order to show the english (effect) more clearly to the spectator.
There are 22 balls in snooker : 15 red ones, 1 black, 1 pink, 1 blue, 1 brown, 1 green, 1 yellow and 1 white cue ball.

6.Professional player and trick shot specialist Paul Gerni is nicknamed the "Ambassador” and he speaks six different languages.

7.A "Scratch" is named for the penalty assessed for the cusinking e ball in a pocket during a match. In pool’s early days, the score was often kept on a chalkboard. When a player pocketed the cue ball, his opponent "scratched” a point off of the shooter’s score.

Carom billiards is about scoring caroms, and the tables are pocketless.

8.According to research that was conducted a few short years ago, billiard champions have the highest average age of any sport at 35.6 years.
Currently in 3-cushion billiards most top players are in their 40-ies and 50-ies.  It must be said that there is a younger generation of mostly South-Korean and Vietnamese players that are forging their way to the top.
9.At times in history, including during the Civil War, billiard results received wider news coverage than the war. Players were so renowned, cigarette cards were issued featuring them.

10.Tom Cruise performed his own trick billiard shots for the 1986 film, "The Color of Money", except for one shot in which he had to jump two balls in order to sink another. Director Martin Scorsese said he wanted to let Cruise learn the shot himself, but it would have taken two more days of practice, which would have held up production and would have cost thousands of dollars. Instead, the shot was performed by professional pool player Mike Sigel.
In carom billiards, artistic billiards (phantasy) is an official discipline. It consists of 100 predefined shots (not all shots are played in a match) that all have a specific grade of difficulty, with 10 being the maximum. A player can make 3 attempts at each shot before losing his run. If he makes the shot he receive a number of points equal to the grade of difficulty. The game is mostly played in sets to 60 points, best of 5. In some shots a pin is placed on the table around which the cue ball must be played.
To have a better idea what this game is about you can watch following movies to discover some shots and Raymond Steylaerts - °1933

11.In the course of a match, one day a visiting cadet remarked that first-year cadets at this particular military academy were known as "snookers”. When the cadet missed an easy pot, a remark was made "Why, you are a regular snooker”!

The history of snooker goes back to 1875 Jubblepore in India.  For more information click the link below.
Snooker - °1875

12.Billiards was the first sport to adopt a world championship in 1873.
The first officially recorded 3-cushion tournament was held in 1878 in Saint Louis.For more information click on the link below :
Wayman McCreery - °1851 . Wayman McCreery was one of the participants. Leon Magnus won the tournament.

13.Through history, pool has bridged the gap between the aristocracy and the masses. Gentlemen and street toughs alike played the game.

14.There were few women’s tournaments in the early 1890’s, if any. Whatever titles there were, were only local, and usually were self-proclaimed. Until Frances Anderson came along. The native of Indiana merely proclaimed herself Champion of the World, and offered $5,000 to any woman who could beat her at billiards. Anderson toured the country, playing men and women alike. Legend has it, that she went undefeated for 25 years against her female competitors. She was paid well for her appearances throughout the 1920’s, taking on any challengers and doing exhibitions, in both Europe and in America. She followed up with a well-publicized announcement that shocked the pool-playing world. Her actual name was Orie from Kansas, not Frances, and she was actually a he.

15.In the year 1586, the castle of Mary, the Queen of Scots, was invaded and captured. The invaders left a note forbidding her to use her billiard table. They then proceeded to kill her, and used the cover of the table to cover her body.

16.In the year 1765, the first pool room was built in England. One-pocket was played there, which was a pool table with only one pocket and four balls.

17.What is billiard cloth or "felt" made of? Amazingly, the main component of billiard cloth has remained the same for well over 400 years. Wool was used in the 1500’s, and remains the material of choice today. Of course, it has undergone some perfecting (some wool and nylon blends are also produced today).
Belgian famous cloth manufacturer Simonis was foundend in 1680 in Verviers, Belgium. The town of Verviers is in the flat basin formed by the valley of the Vesdre River. The water there was of such high quality, thanks to its low lime content, that it was particularly suitable for washing wool. It was in this valley that the Simonis factory was set up by Guillaume Henri Simon Simonis, a middle-class Verviers merchant born in the town in 1640 and known as "le Mercier” ("the haberdasher”). The company itself was established on a more permanent footing by Jacques Joseph Simonis and was named after his son Iwan, who was born in Verviers in 1769. Today the name Iwan Simonis is now synonymous worldwide with the highest quality billiard cloth. In the meantime Simonis also acquired Saluc, another Belgian company, better known by the trade name of its billard balls Aramith. Sadly the archives of Simonis were destroyed by a fire in the 20th century. Now a fierce competition is going on between cloth makers, with some like Royal Pro Cloth offering a full synthetic cloth.

18.The first coin-operated pool table was patented in the year 1903. The cost of a game on the first pay-to-play table was only one penny.

19.No one knows precisely when or where the first billiard table was built, or by whom. The earliest document on record of a pool table was made in the year 1470. In an inventory of the possessions of King Louis XI of France, his table was said to have had the following: a cloth covering, bed of stone, and a hole in the middle of the playing surface, in which the balls could be driven.
Le premier modèle de table connu est attribué au Maître ébéniste-menuisier Henri De Vigne qui l'aurait conçu et réalisé en 1469 sur commande du roi Louis XI pour sa résidence parisienne préférée, le château de Bastille.

The first reference to a billiard table is attributed to an order from Louis XI for a billiard table in 1469 to the master wood worker Henri De Vigne in 1469, to be placed in Louis favourite castle, the "château de Bastille".

20.Before the celluloid and other plastics were invented, billiard balls were made from ivory. The elephants could thank their present existence on the invention of plastics. Since billiard balls had to be cut from the dead center of a tusk, the average tusk yielded only 3 to 4 pool balls.

21.Until just about 1920, American billiards was dominated by the carom games. Billiards was a dying sport. When the initial championship pool tournament was held in 1878, the event and the winner, did not go unnoticed.

22.Captain Mingaud, credited with the invention of the leather cue tip, went to prison for political reasons during the French Revolution. With the help of his fellow prisoner, he was able to have a pool table installed in his cell. It was during his imprisonment that be became obsessed with the game of billiards, that he came up with and perfected his invention of the leather cue tip. His obsession became so intense, that toward the end of his prison term, he actually asked for a longer sentence in order to complete his study of the game.
Dutch billiard historian Cees Sprangers has done, and is still doing, a lot of research about François Mingaud.
Mingaud was born in the region of Nimes on January 4 1771. He was in prison from 1804 until 1814 (1793 until 1803 according to Wikipedia??) for complotting against the French state. As from 1827 his manuscript with for the time revolutionary figures were published in Paris, Brussels, London and Calcutta (India) and probably also in Saint Petersburg (Russia). Mingaud traveled around giving exhibitions for free. He settled in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands were he would remarry and die on December 23 1847. Mingaud lived also quite a while in the UK (London amongst others) where he was married.  Mingaud still has decendants living in the UK. Mingaud was quite a colorful person, to say the least.

23.Most chalk that is used today is made from fine abrasives that do not contain any chalk.

24.The world’s largest pool hall was built during the golden age of billiards. A mammoth seven-story health spa "The Recreation", was a bustling Detroit business in the 1920’s. It had 103 tables, 20 barber chairs, 88 bowling lanes, three manicure stands, a restaurant that could seat 300, 14 cigar stands, a lunch counter on each floor, and an exhibition room with theater seats, that could accommodate 250 people.
For more information see the related article below :

25.Willie Hoppe was a truly legendary pool player. Yet, his most famous match strangely had to do more with a penknife, than his unequaled wizardry of the billiards game. In 1925, Hoppe met Robert Cannefax, the Three-Cushion champ. After several games of pool, Cannefax, who preferred a faster cloth, asked to move the match to a different pool table. Hoppe, who was in the lead, said the cloth was fine, and refused to allow any change. An angry Cannefax drew a penknife and cut the cloth down the center of the table. Hoppe was awarded the match immediately, and Cannefax was suspended from competing for one year. Ironically, Cannefax never played another game of pool. He toured Vaudeville for a couple of years, and eventually died from meningitis in 1928.
For more information see the article below :
Willie Hoppe. Mr. Billiards. - °1887

26.Charles Goodyear – who invented vulcanized rubber, which revolutionized billiard table cushions and many other industries – died a pauper. His business failed, he went to prison for his debts, and he profited little from his wonderful invention.

27.Many handicapped people played the game of billiards, but the story of "Handless George” Sutton is one of inspiration. Born in 1870, Sutton lost both of his hands in a sawmill accident at the early age of eight. Despite being handicapped (and long before advanced prosthetics), Sutton studied medicine and graduated from the University of Milwaukee. During college, he took up the game of pool. He became so proficient at pool, he set an 18.2 Balkline world record with a run of 799, in 1921. Sutton took his playing skills on the road, touring the country and amazing audiences for nearly 35 years. He left an everlasting legacy upon his death, in the year 1938.

28.The movie "The Hustler" was based on a novel by Walter Tevis. The novel, however, was based on a short story that he had submitted earlier to Playboy. Before "The Hustler” released, the Philco TV Theater aired an episode called "Goodbye Johnny”, which had an uncanny resemblance to the short story in Playboy. In it, Cliff Robertson acted as the cocky young hustler, making Robertson – not Paul Newman – the original Fast Eddie Felson.

29.The art of making pictures or designs with thin slices of wood, shell or other materials, Marquetry, has long enhanced the beauty of pool tables and billiard cues. The art form is hardly a new development. It was practiced in Egypt and Asia more than 3,000 years ago.

30.W.C. Fields, despite having a slapstick persona, was an accomplished billiards player.
W.C. Fields brilliant and humoristic view on the game of billiards, scroll down on the following page : Music - Humor - Art 
Photo of W.C. Fields together wiht Cannefax, scroll down in the following article : Willie Hoppe. Mr. Billiards. - °1887

31.Throughout most of the 19th century, the chalk that was used on the new leather cue tips were made from carbonate of lime, also known as blackboard chalk.

32.The Church has been a part of billiard history for a long time. From its earliest days, pool was often denounced as a dangerous, sinful, and morally corrupt activity. In 15th century France, playing billiards was forbidden by the Church and the King. In early American history, laws were actually passed (because of religious influences), outlawing the game of pool in many parts of America.

33.The initial 18.2 Balkline Championship was held in Paris, France in 1913. It is the only world championship in history ever to be decided by the courts. After six days of playing, three contestants tied for the first place. When a tie-breaking playoff was suggested, Maurice Vignaux, a French champion and notorious whiner, scoffed at the suggestion. He insisted the title should be awarded based on the highest average overall (which he had at the time). Vignaux refused to continue, and the decision wound up in the French courts. (Of course, they awarded Vignaux, the Frenchmen, the title, after a delay of more than two months passed).

34.Harvey Hendrickson made probably as much money as anyone else with his limited skills at a pool table. He actually toured America and amazed his audiences. Not because of an ability to run racks or pocket billiard balls, but because of his freakishly unique ability to pick up and hold all fifteen billiard balls at once using one hand.

35.The word cue was derived from the French word queue, meaning tail. Before the cue stick was used, billiards was played with a mace. The mace consisted of a curved wooden or metal head used in pushing the ball forward, that was attached to a narrow handle. Since of the mace head's bulkiness, shots along the rail were difficult, the mace was often turned around and the "tail” end was used. Players realized, eventually, that this method was far more effective, and that the cue as a separate instrument grew from the mace’s tail. 

36.Behind the eight ball – A very dangerous position in which it is unlikely a player can escape is a version of the game of pool. The balls are numbered and have to be potted in order. The game is forfeited if a player’s cue ball hits the eight ball first. A "behind the eight ball” position leaves a player in immediate danger of losing the match.

37.The tables originally had vertical flat walls for the rails and their only function was to keep the billiard balls from falling off the table. They resembled riverbanks and used to be called "banks”. Some players discovered that balls could bounce off the rails and began deliberately aiming for them. Thus a "bank shot” is one in which a ball is made to bounce from a cushion as part of the shot.