Today in History

Today in History: July 29

In A League of His Own

Girl Bowling
Bowling alley,
Clinton, Indiana,
Arthur Rothstein, photographer,
February 1940.
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.

Panoramic of St. Louis Exposition
American Bowling Congress, Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
copyright 1905.
Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

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.

man holding a bowling ball
Bowler L. Langmeyer holding a bowling ball…
Chicago Daily News, 1908.
Photographs from the Chicago Daily News

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:

The Harris Treaty

Japan, 1996,
Map Collections

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.

Two Cherry Blossoms
Japanese Cherry Blossoms,
Theodor Horydczak,
circa 1920-1950.
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: