Bingo: The History of the Game of Beans

The bingo that we all know today is not very much unlike the game that it was in the 1500s. Bingo started out as lottery sponsored by the Italian government when Italy became a unified country, which is still being played even until today.

Bingo became a popular lottery in Italy that soon it traveled to France, where it caught the fancy of the rich and the royalty, and beme popularly known as Le Lotto. Players used lotto cards that were divided into rows and columnat contained numbers. Numbered wooden tokens were drawn out of a cloth bag, and those numbers would be marked by the players on their cards. Whoever marked all of the numbers first won.

With the game's success in attracting the attention of the French elite it was no surprise that the game would become a popular diversion through all of Europe, where it was developed to help children learn how to count.

Bingo started out in America when a New York salesman who was down on his luck decided to stop by a local carnival and see the sights. There he saw, in one carnival booth, a game being played with a couple of numbered cards and beans. The players each held a card and a couple of beans, and sat surrounding a person who would draw out numbered wooden chips from a box and then shout the numbers out loud. The players would then mark the number on their cards with the beans. Whoever made a complete horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line with the numbers would then yell "BEANO!" and he or she got a Kewpie doll as a reward.

This game intrigued Lowe so much that when he got home to New York he created a beano set of his own and started to play the game with his friends. The game was a big hit, and soon Lowe decided to market the game as "BINGO", after a female friend, in her excitement, mistakenly shouted out the word in one game.

Lowe was soon approached by a priest from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, who wanted to use bingo as a fund raising gimik to help save his church from financial difficulty. The problem, according to the priest, was that Lowe's cards created a dozen or so winners after each game, which will prove a loss to the church in the long run.

To solve this matter Lowe enlisted the help of Columbia university math professor Carl Leffler, who agreed to create cards with non-repeating combinations of numbers for Lowe's company. Leffler managed to churn out 6000 combinations but in the end it is widely believed that the project made him insane.

Thus bingo was born, and its tremendous fund raising ability started from there. Lowe's company continued to produce hundred and hundreds of bingo cards, chips, and instruction manuals to supply the world's newly-found appetite for the game, and even now, bingo is still enjoyed and played by young and old alike.