Today in History: July 29
In A League of His Own
Arthur Rothstein, photographer,
America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945
Don Carter, one of the greatest professional bowlers of all time, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 29, 1926. A childhood job as a pinsetter gave Carter his start. Practicing on a lane that he constructed in his basement, Carter perfected his game and joined the St. Louis Budweiser team. In 1953, he received the first of six "bowler of the year" designations. He dominated the sport during its heyday.
Carter set bowling firsts. In 1961 he was the first person to win bowling's Grand Slam: the All-Star tournament, the World's Invitational, the Professional Bowlers' Association (PBA) National Championship, and the American Bowling Congress (ABC) Masters tournament. He also was the first athlete to sign a $1 million promotional contract, the first bowler to have a PBA tournament named for him, and the first bowler selected for the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame.
Since ancient times, people have rolled balls at pins for sport. An Egyptian child's tomb, dating to 3,200 B.C., contained bowling balls and pins. Various forms of bowling have been popular in America since colonial times—English, Dutch, and German settlers all imported their own variations of bowling. By the 1870s, competitive bowling between clubs was common in big cities such as New York, Chicago, and Milwaukee. Tenpin bowling dominated the sport, but without official rules and equipment standards the game flourished only at the local level.
Bowling organizations were formed in the United States beginning in the late nineteenth century. On September 9, 1895, the American Bowling Congress (ABC) was organized in New York City. The ABC held its first national tournament in 1901. The Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC), first established in 1916 as the Ladies National Bowling Association, then named the Women's National Bowling Association, began championship games the following year. The United States Bowling Congress was founded in 2005 with the merger of the American Bowling Congress, Women's International Bowling Congress, Young American Bowling Alliance, and USA Bowling.
Important technological advances in the sport included the introduction of the hard rubber ball in 1905 and the development of automatic pinspotting machines in the early 1950s. A sign of growing prosperity and leisure in postwar America, the game became increasingly popular in the 1950s and 1960s—in bowling alleys and on television.
Today, an estimated 70 million people bowl at least once a year in the United States. Many people bowl in leagues composed of eight to twelve teams, but leagues can be as large as forty teams depending on the size of the local alley. Although tenpin games continue to prevail, bowlers loyal to duckpins are active through the National Duckpin Bowling Congress, founded in 1927.
Don Carter and others founded the Professional Bowlers Association of America in 1958; Carter served as the first president. In the early twenty-first century the PBA had nearly 4,300 members representing thirteen countries. Annual tournament prize money is now more than $9 million; in the 1970s prize money was approximately $1 million.
Learn more about bowling in American Memory collections:
- Sing the "Bowling Song of the Cambrian Bowling Club" by J. W. Parson Price. Search the collection Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885 on bowling to find this 1882 ditty.
- View images from bowling's past. Search across American Memory's pictorial collections on bowling alley to see photographs of public and private facilities.
- Photographs from the Chicago Daily News is particularly rich in images of the sport. A search on bowlers yields nearly 400 photographs of bowlers, bowling teams, and bowling alleys.
- Read Today in History features on athletic greats, including golfer Kathy Whitworth, pitcher Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige, and college football coach Amos Alonzo Stagg. Search the Archive on your favorite sport.
On July 29, 1858, the United States and Japan signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (the Harris Treaty). Townsend Harris, the first U.S. diplomatic representative to Japan, negotiated the arrangement, which became effective July 4, 1859. A New York merchant with experience in Asia, Townsend was appointed consul general to Japan in August 1856 and began his assignment shortly thereafter. Harris was not welcomed and was ignored by the Japanese authorities for more than a year. He operated in diplomatic isolation out of the Gyokusenji Buddhist temple in Shimoda.
In 1857 the Japanese government approved Harris' move to Edo (Tokyo); he used the Zenfukuji Temple in Azabu as the U.S. legation. His negotiations with the Tokugawa regime were aided by concessions that the British had already wrought in China. Harris convinced the Japanese that a voluntary treaty with the United States was more advantageous than a forced treaty with the Europeans.
Harris is credited with opening the Japanese Empire to foreign trade and culture. In addition to Shimoda and Hokadote, which already traded with the U.S., the Harris Treaty opened new ports to U.S. trade; granted U.S. citizens extraterritorial rights (exempting them from the jurisdiction of Japanese law); and permitted Americans their religious freedom. The tariff rates attached to the treaty favored the United States over Japan, but the treaty provided an opportunity to renegotiate in 1872. The Japanese Government also was allowed to "…purchase or construct in the United States ship-of-war, steamers, merchant ships, whale ships, cannot, munitions of war, and arms of all kinds … [as well as] to engage in the United States scientific, naval, and military men, artisans of all kind, and mariners to enter into its service…"
The Harris Treaty made reciprocal diplomatic representation possible. In 1860, a delegation of more than seventy Japanese traveled to the United States. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the visitors, who spent seven weeks touring the United States. Another trip was made twelve years later when, in accordance with the Harris Treaty, the Japanese attempted to gain concessions from the U.S. These visits are credited with helping to dispel cultural stereotypes and furthering diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Japanese Cherry Blossoms,
Washington as It Was: Photographs by Theodor Horydczak, 1923-1959
Before his appointment to Japan, Harris participated in community affairs in New York City. He was a volunteer firefighter and active in the Democratic Party. He served as president of the New York City Board of Education from 1846-48. In 1847 Harris founded the Free Academy, which became The City College of New York (CCNY). CCNY was founded to provide children of the poor and new immigrants with access to public higher education. CCNY enjoys a special relationship with Japan. Since 1986 city officials from Shimoda have visited CCNY annually and viewed Harris' memorabilia. Harris is buried in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery where the Japanese people gifted a refurbished gravesite to the college.
For more information, search the following American Memory collections:
- Visit turn of the century Japan with the World's Transportation Commission. Around the World in the 1890s: Photographs from the World's Transportation Commission, 1894-1896 contains nearly 900 images taken by William Henry Jackson, official photographer of the Commission. For images of Japan some forty years after the Harris Treaty, choose Japan from the list of countries on the World's Transportation Commission Trip Itinerary.
- Search on Japan in Map Collections to locate maps of Japan from the seventeenth century to the present day.
- Find more information about Japan in Japan: a country study, part of a continuing series of books prepared by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress.
- Read about Japan's generous gifts of cherry trees to the Unites States in the Today in History feature for March 27.
- Learn about other treaties including the 1784 Treaty of Paris and the 1803 Louisiana Purchase Treaty. Search the Today in History Archive on treaty.