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The full history of shuffleboard is not completely known. Though there is some knowledge of its development, its actual origins, the place and date where it was first played, remain a mystery. Inevitably, this uncertainty gives rise to some debate, even disagreement, about which country can claim to have invented it. However there is no dispute concerning its age as a form of popular entertainment, and in Europe has a history that goes back over 500 years.

It was popular in England as early as the 15th century, especially with the aristocracy, under the names Shovegroat, Slide-groat, and Shovel-penny. Some of the great country houses had boards of exquisite workmanship: one at Chartley Hall, in Staffordshire,
England, was over 30ft. long.

Other versions of the game were called Shovelboard, original name Shoveboard, a game in which discs are shoved by hand or with an implement so that they come to a stop on or within a scoring area marked on the board or court (on a floor, or outdoor on hard packed sand).

It is said that Henry VIII banned the sport among his archers because they would spend too much time playing the game, and not enough time on archery. Wars could not be won with a shoveboard Cue!
In the 1840s, shuffleboard made the leap from tavern tables to cruise liner decks. The Peninsular and Oriental Line challenged its recreation directors to come up with games that passengers could enjoy while onboard the ship. The cruise industry was burgeoning and new sports and games were being created to amuse passengers between ports. Among them were deck tennis and quoits. An innovative P & O employee developed deck shuffleboard and it quickly became a shipboard staple.

For the shipboard version, called SHUFFLEBOARD, courts or lanes of various designs were marked on the deck, with lined sections at either end, numbered one to ten; the section nearest the player, called 10 off, reduced the score by 10.

The deck shuffleboard court was considerably larger, and wooden discs replaced the coins and metal weights used in table shuffleboard. Of course, cruise passengers couldn't be expected to get down on their hands and knees to play, so a shooting stick was created, with an attachment at the end to hold the puck.

The deck game was brought ashore early in the 20th century.....

The shuffleboard explosion didn't really happen in America until around the turn of the last century. Just as it is now, shuffleboard was popular on cruise ships. And then, in 1913 when Robert Ball, the enterprising owner of the Lyndhurst Hotel along the Halifax River in Daytona Beach, returned from a cruise ship vacation, he was very excited about a game that he played on board the ship. Ball decided to make his own lane and painted a couple triangles on the sidewalk in front of his hotel and then went about assembling the necessary equipment - some long, pronged poles and some small wooden discs and viola! The first shuffleboard court on dry land made its debut.

Prior to that auspicious occasion, shuffleboard had been a game with irregular court designs and non-standard rules, basically available only to the rich as they steamed back and forth across the Atlantic on cruise ships. Soon it caught on in such as a big way that all the better hotels and resorts in Florida were painting shuffleboard courts on their sidewalks too, and it forever changed resort recreation; or least for over a half-century. The first cement court was constructed near the Burgoyne Casino, and became the forerunner of countless shuffleboard courts throughout many cities in Florida and other sections of the United States. The sport quickly became popular, especially among retired people, and it was quickly adopted at other resorts and in the retirement communities that sprang up in Florida during the 1920s

The clamor for shuffleboard was especially great in St. Petersburg, and in 1923 the City's Park Board saw the wisdom of building two public courts at Mirror Lake Park. It's a place sacred in the lore of shuffleboard, since it gave rise to the Mirror Lake Shuffleboard club, where the first organized and competitive games were played. The games popularity continued to grow and soon more shuffleboard clubs were being organized. The modern game of Shuffleboard was defined in St. Petersburg in 1924 and in 1928 the Florida Shuffleboard Association was formed. The organization of the FSA led to the formation of the National Shuffleboard Association in 1931, and as a result of the NSA, the modern rules of the game were standardized all over the country.
Shuffleboard courts rapidly spread across the country during the 1930's and 40's at resorts, senior parks and hotels. The Works Projects Administration (WPA) even built several shuffleboard courts on playgrounds in public parks. They may be hard to find now, but as late as the early 1970’s one could find a shuffleboard court at many motels throughout the country.

The 1950’s proved to be the heydays of shuffleboard with tens of thousands participating throughout the United States. The game began to decline in popularity somewhat, during the late 1960’s. Part of the problem was the development of other forms of entertainment, including television, golf and later video and computer games.
Shuffleboard continued to have a loyal group of avid followers though and in 1979 the International Shuffleboard Association (ISA) was founded in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Shuffleboard continues it's popularity today and is played daily, here and in many foreign countries by countless people for either recreation or in organized competition. We are about to celebrate shuffleboard’s 100th anniversary (2013) and we are certainly in debt to Mr. Ball for his foresight. This great game has provided us all with many hours of adventurous fun and excitement.

The FSA at their meeting of March 17th, 2012 voted and approved a proposal to support a celebration of the anniversary of 100 Years of shuffleboard in the State of Florida. A Committee has been formed, chaired by Stan McCormack, to lead what is hoped to be a year to remember in the significant history of shuffleboard!  Here is a link to Stan's blog. celebrate100yearsofshuffleboard

Check this site often for news and events being planned to celebrate the centennial anniversary throughout the 2012-2013 season.

I will also feature more articles on the 100 years of shuffleboard history in Florida in the coming weeks, click on link below.

Excerpts taken from various sources

Chuck Moulton

This is another in a series of articles on the history of Shuffleboard in Florida, presented in celebration of our 100th Anniversary by the Zephyrhills Shuffleboard club.