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Nine-Pin Bowling Clubs


Welcome to Nine Pin Bowling, a German-Texas Tradition

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Nine-pin bowling - a brand of bowling that was once illegal and died out in much of the country - has been kept alive by a few small Texas towns.

Origins of Nine Pin Bowling

Standardized rules and organization of nine-pins were developed by the American Bowling Congress in 1895. Nine-pins was the most popular form of bowling in much of the United States from colonial times until the early nineteenth century, when it was outlawed in many areas and replaced by ten-pins. Today, nine-pins has disappeared from all of the United States except Texas, where both nine and ten pin bowling have been known since the 1830s. In the 1830s, several cities in the United States banned nine-pin bowling out of moral panic over the supposed destruction of the work ethic, gambling, and organized crime. Ten-pin bowling is said to have been invented in order to meet the letter of these laws, even with evidence of outdoor bowling games in 1810 England being bowled with ten pins set in an equilateral triangle as is done today in tenpin bowling. Ninepin alleys were numerous enough in Texas by 1837 that rather than a ban, the 1st Congress of the Republic of Texas chose to subject them to an annual tax of $150, and all forms of bowling have remained legal and subject to taxation in Texas ever since. Whereas tenpin alleys were usually found in saloons and other establishments frequented exclusively by men, ninepin alleys were often built by clubs patronized by families.

Unique to Central Texas

By World War I most Texas bowling establishments, both private and commercial, had changed to ten-pins. However, nine-pins remained popular in predominantly German communities like Fredericksburg, New Braunfels and Bulverde, until the introduction of fully automated pin-setting machinery in the 1950s caused most of them to make the change as well. Those bowlers who still preferred the teamwork and camaraderie of nine-pins then moved to the nine-pins clubs in the small outlying communities of Bexar, Comal, and Guadalupe Counties.

Organizations like the Turner Club, Barbarossa, Bexar, Bulverde, Blanco, Bracken, Cibolo, Fischer, Freiheit, Germania (the oldest club, organized in 1889), Highland, Laubach, Marion, Martinez, Mission Valley, Solms, Spring Branch, and Zorn bowling clubs maintain the only active nine-pins leagues in the United States.

Read more about Scoring and Pin-Setters on Wikipedia

video from CBS News