The Story Of Darts In America by Dan William Peek
– as featured in Planet Darts
The book is a must for anyone interested in the history of darts and in particular anyone interested in the development of sport in general in the USA.
For a number of years Dan has been piecing together his history of darts in the States. It was a labour of love, with few reliable studies preceding him, so putting this together must have been like working on a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without the aid of a picture.
Although other American authors including Paddy Whannel and Dana Hogdon (The Book of Darts, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1976), Robert McLeod and Jay Cohen (Darts Unlimited, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1977) and Jack McClintock (The Book of Darts, New York: Random House, 1977) made attempts in the 1970s to trace the history of darts in America, none of their work even hints at the extensive heritage that Dan reveals.
As a Darts Historian based in the UK, up until I read Dan’s work, I firmly believed that the catalyst for darts in America had been the Second World War. The American servicemen stationed in the UK, drank in local pubs and quite naturally played darts and after the war they took the game of darts home with them and made it their own.
I believed that the game was taken up in great numbers and flourished even to the extent that a darts game was invented based on the favourite national pastime of baseball. Darts then enjoyed a similar boom to that of the UK between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s.
Truth is I was only partly right. What Dan reveals is a dart history in the US nearly as long – in terms of both darts manufacturing and organisation – as that of the game in the UK!
Fortunately, To the Point is not written in the style of an academic. Good for you Dan, say I. Good for the reader too. Dan makes the reader feel part of his research mission as he seeks out his sources. We travel with him and share his experiences and his disappointments.
He shares interviews with us, word for word, and as a Brit, I’m introduced to fascinating US darting characters including Tex Blackwood and the original ‘Ice Man’, Al Lippman.
Helpfully, Dan also explodes a myth or two about America’s darts history.
For example, in the 35 years since Noel E. Williamson wrote in his book, ‘It has been said that the Pilgrim Fathers amused themselves by playing darts aboard the Mayflower in the year 1620’ (Darts:Kingswood, Surrey: Elliot Rightway Books, 1968), this apparent dart playing on board has been reinterpreted and has become fact – The Puritans brought darts to America. I’ve even heard a question asked about it in pub quizzes!
Given the conflict of Puritan ethic and sport, I was never happy with that ‘fact’. Dan, I am pleased to say, blows the theory right out of the water and offers up a more tangible explanation of the origins of the sport is his country.
The book fills a gaping hole in the history of sports culture in America. Dan’s subject is so wide that it is likely that the 294 pages of To the Point are only scratching the surface of his subject. It is the foundation upon which Dan and hopefully other researchers interested in our sport in the US will build.
To the Point – The Story of Darts in America is published by Columbia, Missouri: Pebble Publishing, 2000.
© 2007 Patrick Chaplin