A Look at the History of Bingo

vintage gameBingo, since its heyday in bingo halls around the world to its modern day online incarnation, has had an interesting history. Known and loved by people everywhere, it’s a game that’s accessible, fun, exciting and, depending on the circumstances, social too. Here we take a look at the origin of bingo and uncover a few facts you might find surprising.

Early Origins

Bingo, the way we see and hear of it today, is known as a type of lottery that is played live and with a group of people. Its origins come from an Italian lottery, which was a national lottery organized soon after the country’s independence in 1530 and played weekly among citizens of the nation at that time. Bingo can also be related back, in terms of origins, to the modern incarnation of the Italian National Lottery, which contributes over 70 million dollars annually.

From its Italian origins, bingo then moved to France where it was taken up by high society in the late 18th century. At that time bingo found popularity alongside Lotto, resembling a card game of numerous rows and chips. In this form players were dealt a single card and the caller would draw numbered pieces, or tokens, from a bag made of cloth and then call the numbers.

After bingo began to take form it moved into the 1800’s as an educational tool, teaching children basic arithmetic as well as branching into other areas of education such as history and linguistics. This trend actually continues up to this day with particular board game providers making bingo and Lotto style games for children designed to help them count and understand numbers.

Edwin S. Lowe and Beano

Bingo as we know it today is largely down to a night in December 1929 when a New York salesman specializing in toys, Edwin S. Lowe, set out to drive to Georgia for work appointments the following day. Only a year before had he set up a toy company but, due to markets crashing, was hardly optimistic about its future.

As Lowe entered Jacksonville he encountered a carnival where the only booth that was open was packed out with people playing a game centered on cards and beans. The game, a Lotto variation called Beano, involved a puller taking out discs from a cigar box and calling the numbers while players checked their cards to see if their number had been called. This continued until eventually someone completed a line on the card and shouted, aloud, ‘Beano’.

It was from this event, that Lowe ascertained the carnival host had got the idea from Germany. Taking it back to New York, Lowe created his own version of the game and put on an evening for his friends to play it. It was there, so the story goes, that one of his female friend’s filled a line and shouted, out of excitement and tension, the word “bingo” instead of “beano”.

Lowe stuck with the name, going on to create two variations, one with a twelve-card set and one with twenty-four cards.


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