History of Billiards
Like most of our modern games, billiards began rather humbly as an outdoor sport involving balls and sticks.
Sometime during the 14h Century, Northern Europeans moved the then lawn game, similar to croquet, indoors; the playing field became a rimmed table with a green, "grassy" surface, and balls were pushed, rather than hit, across the field.
Early pool tables had the six pockets we're accustomed to now, but games were played with just two balls. The pool cue was not developed until the late 1600s; prior to that, balls were moved around the pool table with wooden sticks called maces. Maces had large heavy heads (somewhat like a croquet mallet) and were difficult to use when balls neared the rim of the billiard table. Players often got their balls out of tight spots with the handles, or "queues," of their maces.
Eventually, pool cues nearly as we know them replaced maces; the leather cue tip that tops contemporary pool cues, though, was not honed or widely used until the first half of the 1800s. And with the Industrial Revolution of the age came modern billiards and pool tables: slate table beds with rubber billiard cushions.
The Father of American Billiards
Historians believe billiards crossed the Atlantic to the American Colonies with Dutch and English settlers, but America's love for the game is attributed to Irishman Michael Phelan, "the father of American billiards." Phelan wrote the first book on the game in 1850 and is credited with devising many of the rules and table designs we use today.
Early American pool games were played with four balls; after 1870, three-ball and 15-ball games saw some popularity. Eight-ball and nine-ball billiards, as well as straight pool, all developed before 1920.
Meanwhile, the game's ubiquitous popularity in and outside America and Europe landed it the impressive place as the first sport to have a world championship match in 1873.