Kings and Commoners, Presidents, Ladies, Gentlemen, and Hustlers have played billiards alike. It evolved from a lawn game similar to Croquet played sometime during the 15th Century in Northern Europe and France. Play was moved indoors to a wooden table with green cloth to simulate grass, and a simple border was placed around the edges. The balls were shoved, rather that struck, with wooden sticks called “Maces.”
The cue stick was developed in the late 1600’s. When the ball lay near a rail, the mace was very inconvenient to use because of its large head. In such a case, the players would turn the mace around and use its handle to strike the ball. The handle was called a “queue” - meaning, “tail” - from which we get the word “cue.”
Billiard equipment improved rapidly in England after 1800, largely because of the industrial revolution. Chalk was used to increase friction between the ball and the cue stick even before cues had tips. The leather cue tip, with which a player can apply sidespin to the ball, was perfected by 1823. The two-piece cue arrived in 1829. Slate became popular as a material for table beds around 1835. Goodyear discovered vulcanization of rubber in 1839 and by 1845 it was used to make Billiard cushions. By 1850 the Billiard table had essentially evolved into its current form.
Eight Ball was invented shortly after 1900; straight pool followed in 1910. Nine Ball seems to have developed around 1920. The game of One Pocket is older than any of these; the idea of the game was described in 1775 and complete rules for a British form appeared in 1869.
The term “Billiard” is derived from French, either from the word “Billart,” one of the wooden sticks, or “Bille,” a ball. While the term “Billiards” refers to all games played on a Billiard table, with or without pockets, some people take Billiards to mean carom games only and use pool for pocket games.
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