THE FIRST DARTBOARD IN AMERICA

I have a very limited knowledge of the history of darts in the USA yet whenever I am asked questions in that regard I do my utmost to research and answer them.

Since the first issue of my global Dr. Darts’ Newsletter was published in 2010 an increasing number of darts fans from the USA have subscribed (for which I am very grateful) many of whom have taken the time to ask me questions about the development of darts in their country. One, received from a gentleman named John Grossman in 2017, intrigued me. He wrote

Hi there, I just finished your Official Bar Guide to Darts! Loved it and I will be picking your next book 180! – Fascinating Darts Facts very soon.

Front cover of my The Official Bar Guide to Darts originally published in the USA in 2010

In your official guide, you mention the American tavern owner John Pearson putting up the first dartboard in the US. Do you happen to know the location of this tavern and/or what issue of the Evening Bulletin from 1952 it was referenced in? I am not far from the area you mentioned and my dart partner lives almost in that exact area! Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

During my research I had discovered the facts about the first dartboard to be hung in a US tavern from Dan Peek’s ground-breaking book To the Point – The Story of Darts in America (Rocheport: Pebble Publishing, 2001). On page 113 Dan (pictured below) revealed

In the March 25, 1952, issue of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, in a feature column titled “Any More Questions?” a subscriber’s inquiry relating to darts was addressed. The question…was “Which game is older – shuffleboard or darts?”

The columnist Don Donaghey…After a discussion of the history of shuffleboard…concluded the article with a notice that:

“It’s related that the first dartboard in America was made in Philadelphia by English immigrant John Pearson for use in his tavern at Ridge and Nicetown Lane. It was a cross section slab from a fat tree, bound with an iron hoop and dunked in a horse trough until the fit was snug…”

I contacted Dan, who I know personally, and he verified the source, adding that

If your correspondent wishes to follow up with some research he can visit the Temple University Archives and view this and other information on the subject of Darts in America.

I forwarded the information on to John G. who described the response as “Awesome!” I wished him well with his research and within a few hours he came back to me with a photograph taken towards the end of the 19th century of the Swan Tavern (also known at some stage as The Dove and Swan Tavern), which was located in ‘Ridge Avenue above Nicetown Lane’. (Image © Free Library of Philadelphia.)

When I informed Dan Peek of this more or less immediate progress in the case, he replied

Wow – I believe there is an excellent probability that this is the place. The dates would be right and I have reason to believe that Pearson and his family lived on the second story of the building housing the tavern. Although I am no longer doing any darts history research I remain fascinated by the subject.

Dan and I very much look forward to hearing the outcome of John Grossman’s further research into the first dartboard ever hung in a US tavern.

Dan Peek’s book To the Point – The Story of Darts in America has been out of print for a few years but Dan tells me that it is available ‘from several internet sources.’

My book The Official Bar Guide to Darts, which includes a brief history of darts in the USA is no longer in print but can be found online. 180! – Fascinating Darts Facts is still available from The History Press and online. At the time of writing (August 2019) both books can also be purchased direct from me, signed, and including a set of my ‘DR. DARTS’ darts flights produced by WINMAU.

‘WORLD RENOWNED’ DR. DARTS?  

In one of his e-mails to me about the above Dan Peek added

On another note, you and I are cited in a 2014 PhD dissertation at the University of Toledo. You are referred to as the “World Renowned” expert on the sport.

The PhD project Reality, virtual reality, and imagery: quality of movement in novice dart players was written by Reggie R. Kehoe (The University of Toledo – The University of Toledo Digital Repository Master’s and Doctoral Projects – 2014) and he did indeed describe me as ‘World Renowned’…

© Patrick Chaplin 2017 (Updated 2019)

NOTE: The original version of this article appeared in the August issue (#89) of my global Dr. Darts’ Newsletter (DDN). To learn more about DDN and/or to subscribe click here.

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