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What are "American" darts and what's an "American" dartboard?

What are "American" darts and what's an "American" dartboard? 

American darts were developed in the Eastern US and use a wooden dartboard with an entirely different design than that of the London or English dartboard. The games played are also different with a variation baseball being the most popular. Even the darts used are different. The "widdies", as they are called, have one-piece barrels and shafts made of wood. Turkey feathers are used exclusively for flights and three are glued to the sides of the shaft. At the other end, the steel point is attached to a lead weight which is attached to the wood barrel.

Currently, the only manufacturer of these games is Al's American Dartboard of Waterford, N.Y. Check out their web site (URL below) for more information on this unique dart game.


History of American Darts & Dart Playing in the US

The beginning of the modern game of darts can be divided into three periods:

1. Nineteenth Century Evolution

2. The Age of Popularity

3. The Period of International Growth and Standardization


Nineteenth Century Evolution

The origin of American Darts is based on oral accounts and hearsay rather than fact, just as with English Darts. The origin of the games played and the individual structure of the boards is based on stories handed down from player to player.

We know the throwing of darts is an ancient activity evolving probably from the sport of archery. Its beginnings were in England and it was carried over to America by Europeans. Sources suggest that the Pilgrims played on board the Mayflower.

American Darts then went in its own direction, developed by the coal miners in working class regions of Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the 1880s. It is believed that dart playing was introduced to the Capital District of New York by the men who ran the barges on the Erie Canal.

The Age of Popularity

Popularity of darts in America really grew with the onset of World War I and extended in a rising curve through World War II and the years following.

The wars played a major role in bringing people together in taverns to share war stories. As a result, people started to play games in taverns and the game of darts was one of the most popular. The players and tavern owners started to form dart leagues and more competition was promoted.

There are many leagues in the Capital District of New York today, especially in clubs, such as the Elks, American Legion and ethnic social clubs.

The Period of International Growth and Standardization

By the latter half of the twentieth century, progress began in the standardization of equipment and rules, commercial sponsorship, promotion of international competition and the rise of superstars. The United States Darting Association was formed in 1969. It has run a number of tournaments, most notably the US Open, finding sponsorship from whiskey firms such as Jameson's and Black & White.

At the same time, there grew large area organizations, such as the California Darts Association and the Greater New York Darts League, and the new regional tournaments offered quite substantial prize monies. In the Upstate New York area, many Elks Clubs and American Legions sponsor local tournaments against each other.

It is in this context that a new body, The American Dart Organization [ADO], was set up in 1975. It is divided into eight regions covering the entire country, with elected regional representatives.

Predictions for the Future

It has been predicted that in the not too distant future you will see the popularity of the basswood dartboard eventually catching up to the bristle board as the standard. Since the basswood board is only 40 years old and has been marketed mainly in the New York area to date, it has been hidden to the rest of the world.

- reprinted with permission from Al's American Dartboards web site http://als-american-darts.com