History of Bingo

The history of Bingo is truly a fascinating story, at least to those of us who enjoy the game. Its origins can actually be traced back to Italy in the 1530’s, where a game called “Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia” was regularly played. It has vast similarities to the game of Bingo we know and love today, and is still played every Saturday in Italy, making up a generous (and indispensable) portion of the country’s government revenue.

Le Lotto
The game then traveled to France in the later 1770’s, where it became popular among nobility. In those days, only the rich people were privileged to such enjoyable activities, and “Le Lotto”, as they called it, was one of them.

US Bingo & Edwin S. Lowe
Moving right along, we’ll set the scene for you as to how the history of Bingo evolved into the game we know today. Picture a large carnival stationed just outside of Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. This is where New York toy manufacturer Edwin S. Lowe first discovered the game, then called “Beano”.

Lowe was scouring the countryside to find new ideas for his toy business when he stumbled upon a large tent at this very carnival. Within, the people were making so much noise; they were obviously having an uproarious time, whatever they were doing. As it turned out, they were playing “Beano”. Each player had a cardboard card with 5×5 squares, each depicting a different number. The caller up front would draw a number at random from a cigar box, then, if that number was present on a player’s card, the player would cover it with a dried bean (hence the name, “Beano”).

The game went on long into the night until eventually, the man running the game told everyone to leave. The game is over, you must go home! Disgruntled at the cessation of the game, they reluctantly left the tent.

Edwin Lowe was so taken with the player’s response to the game that he immediately returned home to New York and began developing his own game pieces and cards. He then invited a few friends over and experimented with the game. His friends had the same reaction as those people in the carnival tent, except for one key aspect – an occurrence that changed the history of Bingo forever. One of them jumped from his seat to announce his victory and accidently blurted out the word, “Bingo!”

And thus the name was born. Lowe set about manufacturing the game for distribution, employing the expertise of Columbia University’s Math Professor, Carl Leffler. Leffler was asked to design a non-repeating number pattern on 6,000 Bingo cards, arranged in 5×5 boxes. The first column should contain only number 1-15, second column 16-30, and so on, for a total of 75 numbers in use. Carl completed Lowe’s request in 1930 and it is widely report, though never proven, that the professor went insane immediately thereafter.

“Lowe’s Bingo” hit the shelves soon after and was a phenomenal success. Other toy manufacturers paid Lowe $1 per year to use the name “Bingo” in their marketing plan. The game has been a staple in the north American community, as well as most other regions of the world, ever since.

This is not the end of our story, however. One other very important fact remains in the history of Bingo, and that is how it became the most common form of charitable fund raising across North America.

Here is what happened – A Pennsylvania pastor found himself in an unpleasant situation. Without funds to restore the dilapidated church, he was forced to hold his congregations in a decrepit old building. One day, he was blessed with a brilliant solution. He would hold Bingo games for his congregations, with all proceeds going to restore the church.

The success of this idea has steamrolled into the constant “Friday Night Bingo” signs we see outside of churches all over the United States.

And thus we conclude the fascinating history of Bingo!

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