Table Tennis 1891-1902
Diameter 3,8 cm (1902 ‘Ping Pong’
Weight 2 g
Whan Major Wingfield took out a patent on his new game of lawn tennis in 1874 he gave it the unlikely Greek title of Sphairistike. But if the name failed to catch on, the game did and it was not long before manufacturers sought to emulate its success with an indoor version.
After several failed attempts from both sides of the Atlantic using flat markers, balloons and even ‘Tiddledy Winks’, in 1890 an English company, David Foster, brought out the first recognisable table tennis set, using strung rackets and a cloth covered rubber ball. A year later John Jaques of London launched Gossima. This featured battledores – vellum-covered bats designed for shuttlecocks and a webbede cork ball. Both games failed however. Foster’s ball had too wild a bounce while Gossima’s did not bounce enough.
The breakfhrough came in 1900 when, according to one source, a man called James Gibb returned from USA with some celluloid balls that, despite their crude seams, offered a much improved game. Developed, as we read earlier by the American inventor, John Wesley Hyatt, in 1863, celluloid was already in use for billiard balls.
Not only were the new balls exeptionally lightweight, when struck by the drum-like surface of a batteldore they made a distinct sound, one which led the London store Hamleys to register an inspired brand name for the game in 1900.
Soon after they teamed up with John Jaques, who quickly mastered production of what would become the standard ball thereafter. ‘Ping Pong’ had arrived.
For a few heady years the world went Ping Pong crazy. At Ping Pong parties ppeople sang Ping parties people sang Ping Pong ditties, danced the Ping Pong Polka and ate Ping Pong biscuits. This, of course, culminated in Ping Pong diplomacy between USA and China in 1971; proof that sport and politics can mix if booth sides know the name of the game.