Origin of Bingo

Know the Origin of Bingo

The origin of bingo started in Italy in the 1500s with a lottery named “Lo Giucco del Lotto D’Italia”. This Italian lottery was still played in Italy every Saturday and is still played in many parts of the country under different names. Bingo spread west to the French intelligentsia by the 1770s. The origin of Bingo on French soil is not known. The French named it “Le Lotto” and by the 1800s the children in Germany were playing Bingo too! Bingo helped in learning mathematics, history, and spelling. This origin of Bingo can be traced to the modern day Sesame Street Bingo.

Origin of Bingo in America was actually at a carnival in Jacksonville, Georgia. A pitch man (or Bingo caller) saw the earlier version of the game during his travels in Germany. He called the game “beano” and used beans to play the game. He thought “beano” would be a hit at carnivals and it really was! A salesman from New York, Edwin S. Lowe, saw the game in Jacksonville and the enthusiasm of the players infected him. He saw that the only booth active in the entire carnival was the Bingo booth. Lowe was on his way to Atlanta, GA and he was running an unsuccessful toy company in the middle of the Depression.

“Beano” the earlier version of Bingo, was played with dried beans. This was what Lowe saw at the carnival. The Bingo caller, or what was then called the pitchman, pulled out numbered wooden sticks from an old cigar box. The bingo caller called out each of the numbers. The people who were playing this version of Bingo had numbered cards that they’d put beans on top of the numbers as they were called. The Bingo calling would continue until all the numbers on a Bingo card were covered by beans — either diagonally, horizontally, or vertically. This person would call out “BEANO” and he or she would be the winner of that game. Lowe saw that the Bingo players were really addicted to the game no matter how often the Bingo caller said, “Last game,” the crowd did not turn away. Finally the Bingo caller forced everyone out at 3AM! Lowe had a historic “Bingo chat” with the pitchman after he locked up. The Bingo caller told him about his story of how he saw children playing Bingo in Germany. He knew it was going to be a hit at the carnivals so he brought it home to America.

This was the origin of Bingo’s popularity. Lowe, after his Bingo chat, returned to New York and started working on his own version of Bingo. He got himself a rubber stamp with numbers, cardboard cards to make Bingo cards, and some dried beans. He had handmade Bingo cards. He had a little Bingo experiment with his friends and neighbors, by playing Bingo in his New York apartment. Lowe himself was the Bingo caller, and people were really excited about the game. At the height of the Bingo game, a woman won and couldn’t contain her excitement. She stuttered and instead of calling out “beano”, she yelled “B-B-Bingo!” This was how the name Bingo originated. After seeing the woman’s excitement and knowing how easy it is to pronounce “Bingo”, Lowe decided to name the game “Bingo”.

Free online Bingo became a household name and it became very popular as Lowe had hoped. Lowe’s competitors were also catching up to him and coming up with the same game. Instead of patenting and going to court for each imitation, Lowe allowed his competitors to use the name “Bingo” for their games too. Bingo already made enough capital for Lowe’s toy company.

Large scale Bingo games did not originate until a priest from Wilkes-Barre, PA tried to fund raise for his church. The parishioner saw the potential of Bingo and bought Lowe’s 24-card-set Bingo games at $2.00 for a set. The 12-card Bingo set from the Lowe toy company cost $1.00. The only glitch with the large scale set up was that it had about 6 winners per Bingo game. This wasn’t going to help with the fund raising so the priest directly approached Lowe. Just sign up free to play bingo games.

Lowe, after hearing the priest’s story, saw that his Bingo game could take off in a huge way. Enter Professor Carl Leffler, a math professor at Columbia University. Lowe commissioned him to come up with 6,000 new Bingo cards. The catch was the number groups could not repeat. The professor charged on a per Bingo card basis. It became increasingly difficult for him to come up with one Bingo card after another that didn’t have repeating number groups, but he managed to complete all 6,000 cards. The impatient Lowe went to work right away with his new set of cards. It saved the church at Wilkes-Barre and word spread. Lowe received thousands of letters asking him to help out with their own fund raising efforts. Bingo halls were set up across America and Lowe published a manual called “How to Play Bingo” so others could set up their own Bingo halls. A monthly newsletter named The Blotter was published by E. S. Lowe’s company which ../included bingo news.

The Bingo market, after its humble origins, grew exponentially. By 1934, Bingo was being played about 10,000 times a week. The largest Bingo game was played by 60,000 players with 10,000 who had to turn away because there was no room in the Bingo hall! It took place at Teaneck Armory in New York and ten cars were given away as bingo bonuses. Lowe’s company had thousands of employees operating all 64 printing presses making Bingo cards all day, every day. All of the E.S. Lowe Company’s nine floors were occupied and bustling with activity. They printed so many Bingo cards that they used up more newsprint than the New York Times! This was the origin of Bingo setting its roots in America. Now it’s another American institution just like apple pie or baseball.