THE BILLIARD’S BIRTHPLACE
Billiard’s history started under the reign of Louis XI, with the arrival of tables, covered with cloth, on which balls were pushed thanks to curved sticks, distant ancestor of billiard or golf…. Billiard carries on with its history and Louis XIII declared the end of the Regency, at the Louvre, by climbing on a billiard. Engravings showed Louis XIV playing on a billiard table and Pascal quoted the king in his ‘Thoughts’… This entertainment was only reserved for the billiard hall’s outbreak.
Before the French Revolution, VIVANT DENON declared that numerous billiard’s rooms existed in Paris, ‘halls’ that were crowded day and night by accustomed people: players or onlookers, masters or amateurs. Rules were not those we know nowadays and the game mixed chance with strategy. The goal was to send balls into pockets set on the billiard’s surrounds.
Billiard is a popular game and the billiard‘s manufacture is a well-known speciality. That is why the painter Jean-Baptiste CHARDIN introduced his father as a billiard table manufacturer.
THE INGENIOUS MINGAUD
At the beginning of the XIXth century, billiard game was so popular that every well-kept place had to own several of them. Prisons were not an exception to the rule and MINGAUD, the Emperor’s non-commissioned officer, took advantage of his incarcerating stay to devote himself to this sport.
He improved the billiard’s art by fixing to the top of the cue (that was made in wood) a leather piece. This allowed to improve the ball’s direction.
He had the genius idea to strike the cue tip on the prison’s wall, which was fortunately whitewashed. The result was incredible — the player managed to give the balls whirling effects. The balls followed magic ways. The screw-back stroke was born, lateral effects conferred to the balls surprising bounces, after having touched rubber cushions.
When he was discharged, MINGAUD begged his jailer to allow him to extend his stay to improve his technic and sharpen his weapons. The jailer granted the requests of his client – who was also his game’s partner. After his release, he challenged the capital’s lecturers who were defeated one after the others.
He ratified the first billiard’s Treaty in which he explained the effects execution’s mechanism. From that time on, numerous works have been published to the rhythm of the different game’s improvements.
MINGAUD’s invention was significant and the game developed in the society. The famous mathematician CORIOLIS took an interest in it. He put in an equation the phenomenon’s complexity in his book entitled: ‘la théorie mathématique des effets de jeu du billard’ (The mathematical theory of billiard’s effects ).
In 1850, new game’s rules were implemented, they favoured effects and the ball’s direction, pockets were suppressed. Carom billiards expended rapidly in France. The rule is as easy as the game is fascinating.
Louis Toulet’s furniture’s factory, from Lille’s area, launched a billiard division. The quality of those products was so good that it rapidly imposed itself as the leader. Those ones were preferred by billiard halls, including the famous one: Salle Rameau in Lyon. The billiard hall is one of the public places where billiard’s players came to play a round, others trained themselves. Passers-by stopped there to enjoy the show.
DESPERATELY SEEKING BILLIARD BALLS
During the American Civil War, the blockade imposed to Southerns made impossible the ivory importation in which balls were curved. Two industrial men, passionate by billiards, decided to give an award to the person who will find a substitute to ivory. The Hyatt’s brothers were looking for a solution to this problem and discovered the celluloid which made their fortune without giving any clue to this problem.
The cinematographic industry took the advantage to produce the precious films. After a century of searching, a new material was born: the phenol. It is able to resist to hundreds of successive impacts without being damaged.
Cushions were previously edged-hay or spring-loaded. In the XXth century, cushions were made in rubber. The returned energy was considerably improved, the trajectory elongated…
The three cushions billiard’s game was launched.
In 1880, the billiard was a game, a sport and a show as well.
The best player in the capital, VIGNAUX, faced the best American player, SLOSSON, playing on a TOULET billiard table, in the presence of thousands of spectators, including the French President: Jules GREVY. SLOSSON lined up the first series called « American » scoring 1103 points. Balls seemed to be magnetic and were never more than 10cm from each other. The audience could not believe their eyes and were unable to realize that VIGNAUX was undergoing the so-called « chair torture ».
The mere observation of his opponent’s performance allowed VIGNAUX to dismantle the mechanism and it only took him a night to control the new method. The following day, he scored a series of 1531 points and won the match.
CAROM UNDER SUPERVISION
New games (frame and line) were created to decide between players who lined up American series and ruined the show. Rules banned players to make several caroms in the same area.
HOURS OF GLORY
Billiards had their own space into the numerous cafés (1 for 50 inhabitants)
Each village café had its own billiard table, its team and its champion. There was no professional association that existed without its circle, its billiard table and its internal competitions.
Competitions took place within each corporation. One of them was for the medical profession only, other for firemen…and press articles made us discovered that the best players sometimes neglected their professional activities to improve their billiard technics.
THE LITTLE QUEEN: A POINTS’ WINNER
The ‘three cushions’’ way of playing launched to decide between the most talented competitors, seduced many non-professionals. The player’s ball had to hit three cushions before caroming the second ball.
The billiard’s manufacture included heating system in order to eliminate the cloth’s dampness and allowed balls to slide better. Thinner cloths were produced to increase ball’s sliding. The company moved in the right direction and new means of transportations carried away players from billiard’s rooms.
The passion for the ‘little queen’ got the better of meeting rooms, friendly places and billiard’s rooms.
In the 1950s, billiard tables were so successful that new technics allowed the manufacture of more accurate and reliable ones.
The TOULET billiard company developed metal body frames inside billiard tables, slates were polished up by accurate machines, rubber cushions were improved… Its standards of manufacturing were adopted by all manufacturers during the competition furniture’s production. A substitute material replaced balls’ ivory. The ‘ivory sorcerers’, those who managed to compensate for the ball’s egg-shaped in the game were replaced by more accurate players. New records are beaten on these new billiard tables which relegate to the antiquities’ rank the billiard tables from the early XXth century.
During the 1970s, new ways of playing coming from England appear. The billiard tables with pockets, more entertaining, less technical, attract new players. They allow the players to familiarize with the playing instruments. Billiard’s rooms are developed in leisure complexes. The billiard allows to have relaxing nights with friends.
With the 1990s comes the return of the billiard tables at the private individuals’ who favour the authenticity of the play relationships in the family circle.