|Back To Top
Copyright ©Chicago Billiard Museum All Rights Reserved
|Above: John Holzhalb, a former partner of John Brunswick joined forces with
Brunswick's main competitor in Ohio; Julius Balke. From 1859 Cincinnati directory
April 10th, 1859 - First technically "public" billiard competition.
Held at Fireman's Hall, Detroit Michigan. $250 a side.
Dudley Kavanagh of NY (1000) beats Michael Foley of Detroit.(989)
Source: Modern Billiards BBCC 1909
News: May 24, 1859 Michael Phelan is honored by his friends and colleagues
with a surprise gift.
Patent # 24,279 June 7, 1859 John M. Brunswick
Pocket irons coated in rubber to protect the balls.
News: July 2, 1859 The positive aspects of billiard playing
A promotional article describing the benefits of billiards,
along with a shameless plug for the new Brunswick billiard room
Two early J.M. Brunswick billiard table nameplates.
One from Cincinnati Ohio, one from Chicago Illinois.
Image from: "Pool & Billiard Collectibles " © Mark & Connie Stellinga
Way Back When: Evolution of Billiard Table Pockets
Early pocketed billiard tables featured hand-forged "pocket irons", like
the examples shown below on the left. These irons were fitted with
woven mesh nets to catch falling balls and then the iron itself was
bolted directly to the rail in what you might call a less-than-aesthetically
But as technology and construction methods improved, the pockets
were eventually cast in iron uniformly, they were re-designed to be
countersunk into the rail and they were attractively wrapped in all manor
of leather and fringe. (The leathers also served to soften the impact of
balls against iron)
Two commonly used pocket iron types ( known as the "#3" and "#6" )
have changed very little over the years and are still used today.
Below: hand-forged pocket irons Below: "modern" cast #3 pocket iron
|Image from: "Pool & Billiard Collectibles " © Mark & Connie Stellinga
The Billiard Rooms of Chicago 1855-56
As listed in the Chicago City Directory.
You will notice that most of these are located in hotels, but the directory was not
all-inclusive and therefore can be a bit misleading.
Young America - Randolph S.E. cor Dearborn
Tremont Hotel - 83? [ 88? ] Lake
Lake House Hotel - cor Rush and N. Water
Garden City Hotel - 49 Lasalle
American House Hotel - -40 Lake
David Wilson - 121 Randolph
(see image below)
Patent # 14,290 Feb. 19, 1856 Michael Phelan
Billiard table cushions.
" The first of Phelan's [ official ] patents for his redesigning of the American
Billiard Table "
William Hendrick; History of Billiards 1977
Patent # 18,799 Dec. 8, 1857 John M. Brunswick
John follows Phelan's lead and patents his own billiard cushions.
News: April 27,1857 Newly elected Mayor John Wentworth issues a statement
threatening to indict every billiard hall owner and billiard player in the entire city
A shocking and bold political move, considering that he had just taken office.
The billiard table license fee fight comes to a screeching halt....
|Image courtesy: Matthew Isenburg Collection
May 13, 1854 White vs Smith
Held at Malcolm Hall, Syracuse NY. 4 ball carom. 6x12' table.
Stakes $200. Joseph N. White (500) defeated George Smith. (484)
"This is believed to have been the first public contest in America, at least for stakes."
Sources: Modern Billiards BBCC 1909
American Billiard Record M. Phelan 1870
The Billiard Halls of Chicago 1854
As listed in Montague's IL & MO State Directory
Field, Otis "Young America" Saloon, cor. of Randolph and Dearborn sts.
Fitzgerald, M. "Tremont " [Hotel] Sal'n
Gage, D.A. "Tremont House" Saloon
Kinlay, M. "Sherman House" Saloon
McCarthy, Timothy, 121 Randolph Street.
Wachter & Chappell, 49 Lasalle st.
(click image to see full size)
Chicago population: 80,872
Early Days of Billiards in Chicago
" Billiards grew in favor during this period of startling growth, so that in 1855 there
were not less than a dozen rooms within the confines of the present [downtown]
loop. Among the best known resorts were the Garden City at 49 LaSalle street,
where Jackson Hall was afterwards erected by Long John; the Lake House, at
Rush and North Water streets; the Tremont House parlor, and the "Young
American", conducted by Ike Cook, erstwhile pastmaster [sic]...maker of Cook's
Imperial Champagne. Among those who, following the star of empire, had drifted
in about this time - I believe in 1855 - was Thomas Foley, the grand old man of the
game, as a boy an employee of the Tremont House billiard room..."
Excerpt from: Billiards Magazine March 1920. A.L. Hardy
April 31st, San Francisco, 3-ball match between Michael Phelan and Monsieur
Damon of Paris. 6x12' table, stakes $500. Best of three.
Phelan won. Match took seven hours.
Source: American Billiard Record Phelan 1870
Summer 1855 Michael Phelan, having returned to NY, founded the
manufacturing firm of O'Connor & Collender, and immediately set out to redesign
the American billiard table. See articles below.
(Hugh Collender was married to Phelan's oldest daughter)
Below: An early billiard table name tag from Julius Balke.
Balke will eventually join forces with Brunswick.
Book: Billiards: Game 500 Up. An Account of the above game, [etc]
By: Edward Russell Mardon Esq London 1858
Patent # 19,704 Jan. 12, 1858 Hugh W. Collender
Improvement in billiard table cushions ( reissue March 19, 1878)
Early Days of Billiards in Chicago
" In 1859 , the game "going fine", and greater interest being manifested, Otis Field,
Ben Jennings, George B. Mansur and Edward Price fitted up fine rooms, all except
Mansur being in the retail section of the south side, the latter locating at the corner
of Kinzie and Clark streets, where the one-time famous McCormick block is.."
Excerpt from: Billiards Magazine March 1920, A.L. Hardy
J.M. Brunswick opens San Francisco office.
Emanuel Brunswick opens an independent billiard table shop in Chicago
and dubs it " The Great Western Billiard Table Manufactory ". Ironically, it's the
same name that Julius Balke decided to use. (see Balke ad below )
See Also - This article on Emanuel Brunswick
Book: A Manual of the Game of Billiards (PDF)
By Michael Phelan. A revised edition of his earlier billiard book.
Feb. 1859 Phelan's High-Stakes Challenge
" To maintain the reputation on which he built his business interests, Phelan
needed to beat a noteworthy player. He published a challenge to play any man
who matched his $5000 front. The $10,000 stake doubled the prize of any
previous advertised match, promised publicity, and limited Phelan's opponent to
top-tier professionals backed by wealthy supporters. John Seereiter of Detroit took
the challenge at the end of January 1859, but Phelan's predicament after his loss
to Kavanagh demanded an event beyond a mere high-stakes match... "
"The match provided culminating theatre. Playing to 2000 points, Phelan fell
behind early but took a 300 point lead by 10:40 PM, over 3 1/2 hours after the
match began. Seereiter rallied to within two points at 1:30 in the morning before
Phelan pulled away and won by 96 points at 5:30 AM, after over 10 hours of play.
Contemporary estimates suggested about a half million dollars exchanged hands
over the event, and Phelan walked away with $15,000 including bets won against
Excerpt from: Billiards and American Culture,1660-1860, pp3-4 2002 ©Kenneth Cohen PhD
A lengthy but interesting and historically rich news article about this match
(and Michael Phelan ) was published many years later in the New York Times.
Click here to read it
Competing billiard table ads from: Montague's 1854-55 IL&MO State Directory
Notice on the Brunswick ad their Pre-Civil War use of the term "Union".
|Images courtesy: Joe Newell Collection
Chicago population: 28,269
The carom game of 'Four Ball' is the most popular in America.
A.E. Schmidt enters the billiard business.
William Hendricks; History of Billiards etc. 1977
Book: Billiards Without A Master (PDF)
By Michael Phelan. It was the first American book published on the
subject of billiard science, etiquette and game rules. A great piece of
history and an interesting read.
Book: The Game of Billiards: Scientifically Explained and Practically
Set Forth (PDF)
Written by Edwin Kentfield, published by John Thurston, London
J. M. Brunswick Forms a New Partnership,
with fellow Swiss immigrant John C. Holzhalb in 1850. Brunswick only
stays in business with Holzhalb for a short time.
Below: 1850-51 Brunswick & Holzhalb ad from the Cincinnati Directory.
( Can you find the huge spelling error?)
|Below: Poster showing many of the pocket irons developed over the
years. All slightly different but based on the same basic concept.
|Image courtesy: A.E. Schmidt Billiard Company
J.M. Brunswick opens New Orleans office.
The Unknown Billiard Player
This intriguing daguerreotype image of what appears to be a billiard player is
presumed to be dated around 1853. So far nobody has been able to identify him.
|Phelan's New American Billiard Table
Featuring, for the first time in history, angled cushions at the pocket, ( instead of
rounded ) pointed nose cushions, countersunk pocket irons and countersunk
"diamond" shaped aiming sites in the rails. All features that modern American
tables still utilize to this day. An article describing its benefits appeared in Scientific
American Dec. 23, 1855 (p.116) which can be found in the Reading Room