One hundred years ago a luncheonette in Atlanta, Georgia may have been the hippest place around. Why? Because in addition to having a soda fountain, they had Skee-Ball.
When they opened after the Great Fire in May of 1917, Harrigan’s was located on Marietta Street in Atlanta, right down the street from the Post Office, the Customs House and City Hall. The large display ad that ran on October 10, 1917 in The Constitution touted their “up-to-the-minute lunch”, and encouraged people to “Follow the crowd” to lunch and try their hand at a brand new game: Skee-Ball. The rest of the ad featured descriptions and endorsements for the game from all over.
The New York Sun article proclaimed:
“Skee-Ball burst into bloom on the Great White Way yesterday and until a late hour last night New York business men were trying to find the secret of landing the ball in the 50 disc and thus making the highest possible count at the new game.”
There was also a quote from the Philadelphia Public Ledger:
“Many who have found bowling too strenuous and not enough action in the cue games, are getting all they desire out of the Skee-Ball. This game provides all the spirit of competition without too much labor. It requires considerable skill and consistent study to improve the game.”
There was even an excerpt from the Philadelphia Record that included Charles Bender, the pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, who had sponsored the first Skee-Ball tournaments at his sporting goods store:
“Chief Bender tried his hand at a comparatively new sport last night when he tried to wrest the Skee-Ball championship of Philadelphia and environs from the present holder of the title, A. J. Carty. The ‘Chief’ failed to capture the title but made a creditable showing.”
It seems that Harrigans was the very first place that introduced Atlanta to Skee-Ball. An article in The Constitution the following day read:
“‘Skee Ball,’ the latest of sports…has been introduced in Atlanta at Harrigan’s, 14 Marietta street.
Wherever skee ball has been introduced, it has been an instant hit. … The game requires considerable skill and study to become proficient, but is amusing and entertaining to the star player and dub alike. Skee ball seems destined to stay here some time.”
The second advertisement was recurring and ran between November 9, 1917 and December 19, 1917. This advertisement featured little other than the luncheonette’s slogan, “Cleanliness our Motto” and “Skee-Ball.”
Most other venues, like Sacandaga near Utica, New York and Marshall Hall in Washington, DC, that had Skee-Ball in this period, would lump Skee-Ball in with their other amusements. Few if any, gave the game top billing the way that Harrigan’s did, which is what made the Harrigan’s advertisement so unique.
It’s unknown how successful Harrigan’s continued to be, or how successful Skee-Ball became as a result, but it’s a great example of how important Skee-Ball was just a few years after it’s introduction.
About the author:
Thaddeus Cooper is the co-author of Seeking Redemption: The Real Story of the Beautiful Game of Skee-Ball, a deep dive into the history of the game. You can find more information about Thaddeus, and his co-author, and their book, at: http://www.nomoreboxes.com/.