Who Invented Table Tennis?

Do we know who invented table tennis? Yes we do.
The ITTF Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland has all the facts.

Chuck Hoey - Curator by courtesy of the ITTF

To discover the origins of table tennis we need to look no further than the International Table Tennis Federation's (ITTF) Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Curator, American born Charles "Chuck" Hoey, is a world renowned authority on the history of Table Tennis and is rightly proud of the ITTF's museum.

The museum has pieced together all the facts about who invented table tennis ... and they even have originals of the first games.

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It started with Lawn Tennis

The game of table tennis has its roots in lawn tennis.

When lawn tennis became very popular in the 1870s & 1880s, game makers tried to emulate its' success by developing indoor versions of the game.

So there were card games, board & dice games, rackets & balloon games and even tiddledy winks tennis games.

But the first use of the name Table Tennis occurred on a board and dice game by J.H.Singer of New York around 1884 and it's also known that a game of Table Tennis was offered in the 1887 game catalogue of George S. Parker, founder of the famed Parker Brothers in the USA.


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Table Tennis

So the answer to the question "who invented table tennis?" is ... Englishman David Foster.

An English Patent (number 11,037) was filed on 15 July 1890 when David Foster of England introduced the first action game of tennis on a table in 1890.

Only one example is known to have survived and it's now on display in the ITTF Museum.

Foster's Parlour Table Games was a compendium of table versions of Cricket, Football and Lawn Tennis.

The table tennis game featured elegant strung rackets, a 30mm cloth covered rubber ball, a small wooden perimeter fence and elaborate side nets to catch stray balls.


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Emma Barker

On 21 January 1891, Emma Barker (London) filed for an American patent (number 454,700).

It was actually for a net fixture.

The patent has a sketch of a table, laid out like a lawn tennis court, describing the game as played much like lawn tennis, using rackets with straps for the hands.

An 1891 advertisement in the USA by Spalding proves that the game was made under the name Indoor Tennis.


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Gossima by John Jaques

Although John Jaques is sometimes quoted as the person who invented table tennis, this is not correct.

On 16 July 1891 - a full year after David Foster's Table Tennis game in 1890 - John Jaques & Son of Hatton Garden, London, England registered Gossima (Trademark number 157,615).

It used vellum drum battledores - first seen in a shuttlecock game, a large 50mm webbed cork ball and a 30cm high net.


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Failure followed by success

Both games were failures due to the inadequate ball.

The bounce was too wild with rubber balls and too poor with cork balls.

And so it was not until 1900 that the game would be revived after the introduction of the celluloid ball. This was found to be perfect for the game, and it became an instant success.


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Ping Pong

Ping-Pong was trademarked on 20 September 1900 by Hamley Brothers who became "jointly concerned" with Jaques as the game was renamed first to "Gossima or Ping-Pong", then "Ping-Pong or Gossima" and finally just "Ping-Pong".


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Whiff-Waff

Whiff-Waff, made by Slazenger & Sons of 10 Ducksfoot Lane, Upper Thames Street, London, England was registered as "a new game" on 31 December 1900 - Trademark number 235,131.

 

And so the question of who invented table tennis is not in doubt.

The ITTF have thoroughly researched the game and they have the definitive answer - it was Englishman David Foster who invented table tennis.

 

For more information about the history of table tennis, follow the links below.

 

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MORE PAGES ABOUT
THE HISTORY OF TABLE TENNIS
For more information about the history of table tennis, take a look at my other articles...

General history of table tennis

Significant events in the history of table tennis


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