A Brief History Of Bingo

The roots of bingo can be traced back to the 14th century Italy, more exactly to a lottery game that people used to play on every Saturday. Two centuries later the lottery became a real hit in France, where it was mainly enjoyed by wealthy aristocrats. It did not take too long before the game traveled to Germany, afterwards spreading all across Europe. However, unlike in France and Italy, the game was used as an education tool from which children could learn mathematics, spelling and history.

In the 18th century, the lottery finally reached Atlanta, Georgia where it was widely known as “beano”. The fun game was very popular at carnivals and fairs and, even though it was played with dried beans, its rules were not very different from the bingo version is played nowadays. Each player had a card containing numbered squares divided in three rows and nine columns and some dried beans utilized to cover the number on the card when it was drawn. The caller drew a disc marked with numbers from 1 to 90 and the first one to cover up the full row of numbers was the winner and alerted the other players by yelling beano!

The story of how the game got to be known as bingo is also fairly interesting. Participating in one of the many country fares, a New York salesman witnessed a woman shouting Bingo instead of beano most likely because she was just so excited that she won. Her innocent error inspired Edwin S. Love – the salesman – to rush back to New York to develop and market a new game, which today is known as bingo.

Soon after, the first commercial versions of Bingo were released on the market in the form of a 12 card set ($1) and a 24 card set ($2). However, the initial version did not last for long, as a priest from Pennsylvania trying to collect funds for his church discovered that the game had too many winners and raising money would take forever. After he brought this aspect to Love’s attention, the creator of Bingo hired a mathematician to help him increase the number of possible combination.

The math professor, Carl Leffler, came up with over 6,000 bingo combinations by 1930, making the game easier and even more enjoyable for the general population. In fact, it is estimated that by 1934, there were over 10,000 bingo games organized each week in the US. Even though Love did not patent his invention, he persuaded his competitors to pay him one dollar per year in royalties in order to call their games ‘bingo’.


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