Bingo: Origins and History of The Game of Beans

Bingo started off as a national game sponsored by the Italian government soon after its reunification, and was called Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia. The game flourished in the 1500s, despite the staunch opposition from the Catholic church, partly because it was popular even with the higher classes.

In the late 1700s the game was brought to France. French nobility quickly snatched the game up, and the masses quickly became equally enamored with the game, even with the same opposition from the French catholic church. This mixture of fascination and popular opposition fueled the popularity of the game, so that the game quickly spread through Europe.

It was actually in France where the popular version of bingo originated. Players divided the cards into three rows and nine columns. In Germany parents utilized the game to help their children count and learn math.

It was in Germany where an American carnival pitchman was visiting that he saw the game, and decided to bring the game to America. After making a few modifications and renaming the game beano, he included the game in his carnival's games roster. The game was played with beans which were used to mark numbers on the cards, as each number is drawn out of a cigar box.

The game became a hit and it became a mainstay in his carnival near Atlanta, Georgia.

One night a traveling toy salesman named Edmund Lowe was visiting the carnival and saw the game being played. Struck by how the players were so excited by the game as they marked the numbers on their cards, he approached the operator and asked how the game was played. By the time he reached his hometown in New York he had already created a beano kit of his own, and he started to play the game with his friends.

The game was such a hit among his Lowe's friends, that one night a female acquaintance, about to win, shouted "BINGO' in her excitement instead of the game's name, Beano. The name stuck, and Lowe, realizing the huge business potential of the game, decided to market the game in its new name, BINGO.

He created bingo cards and sold them for 1 or 2 dollars each, and soon, even whole churches were playing the game in their fund raisers.

One problem came up as the game was rising to popularity though. One priest from Pennsylvania approached Lowe and told him that something had to be done with the cards, since their games often turned up a dozen or more winners. He made the suggestion that more number combinations be created to lessen the chances of too many players winning at a single game. To do this, Lowe asked Columbia U. math professor Carl Leffler to create cards with more number combinations, a task that Leffler accomplished in due time, just before he went insane.

Now bingo is a popular fund raising activity in churches, schools, and communities. Thanks to Edmund Lowe, we have bingo, one of the most enjoyable games around. And it is very likely that bingo is here to stay.