This Day in History (14-Dec-1901) – 1st table tennis tournament is held (London Royal Aquarium)

Like many other sports, Table Tennis began as a mild social diversion. Though Table Tennis evolved, along with Badminton and Lawn Tennis, from the ancient game of Tennis (also known as Jeu de Paume, Real tennis, Court Tennis or Royal Tennis), the game was developed after Lawn Tennis became popular in the 1880s. Game manufacturers tried many experiments to market an indoor version of Lawn Tennis, including board and dice games, card games, racket and balloon games and others. The 1887 catalog of George S. Parker (USA) includes an entry for “Table Tennis: This game is laid out like a Lawn Tennis court, played and counted just the same, all the rules being observed.” However, this was a board and dice game by J.H. Singer (NY), whose name also appears on the catalog.

The earliest surviving action game of Tennis on a table is a set made by David Foster, patented in England in 1890: Parlour Table Games, which included table versions of Lawn Tennis, Cricket and Football. This game featured strung rackets, a 30mm cloth covered rubber ball, a wooden fence set up around the perimeter of the table, and large side nets extending along both sides. One year later famous game makers Jaques of London released their GOSSIMA game. This game borrowed the drum style battledores from the Shuttlecock game, and used a 50mm webbed wrapped cork ball, with an amazing 30cm high net that was secured by a belt-like strap under the table.

Neither of these action games were successful, due to the ineffective ball: the rubber ball had too wild a bounce, while the cork ball had too poor a bounce. Jaques continued to advertise Gossima throughout the 1890s, but it was not until 1900, when the celluloid ball was introduced to the game, that the concept of tennis on a table became successful. The name Ping Pong is traced to an 1884 song by Harry Dacre. The distinct sound of the celluloid ball bouncing off the drum rackets quickly led to the use of the same name. Gradually the two most popular names prevailed: Ping Pong, and Table Tennis. The game gained popularity after establishment of International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in Berlin.


4 thoughts on “This Day in History (14-Dec-1901) – 1st table tennis tournament is held (London Royal Aquarium)

  1. Greetings — we can’t determine who’s responsible for this item [ ], but we ran across it while researching J H Singer games and we’re intrigued by the citation of the 1887 Parker catalogue. We know Parker and Singer collaborated for some time and we’ve been able to access the 1888 and 1889 Parker catalogues, but not their 1887 or earlier editions. Can, and would, someone at this site share any information (ideally, scans) they have from pre-1888 Parker catalogues? Thank you for your time and attention.

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