American pool derives from the game of billiards, which has been played in various forms for hundreds of years. Nobody is certain when billiards was first played in America, but it is thought that English and Dutch settlers were the first to introduce the game.
In the late 1700′s a group of American cabinetmakers produced a high quality billiard table that facilitated the growth of the game. By the 1830′s, entire rooms were dedicated to the game of billiards. In 1850, Michael Phelan wrote a book about billiards and devised rules and standards of behaviour for the game. He later went on to form a manufacturing company called Phelan & Collender which, in 1894, merged with J.M. Brunswick & Balke to become Brunswick-Balke-Collander. Brunswick Billiards is still in existence today and is the leading American manufacturer of pool tables.
The modern game of 8-ball pool was invented shortly after 1900, with 9-ball pool being developed sometime around 1920. The term, “pool room” is collectively known to be a room dedicated to the play of 8-ball and 9-ball American pool. However, in the 19th Century a poolroom was actually a betting parlour where patrons would wager on the outcome of horseracing. Billiard tables were introduced to allow customers to pass the time between races and through linking these activities, the modern interpretation of a pool room was born.
After World War II, pool suffered from a popularity crisis as young men turned their attentions to reconstruction, economic recovery, and their careers. Simply put, it was difficult to justify passing an afternoon away shooting pool. Many pool rooms closed, and by the end of the 1950′s it was looking increasingly likely that the game would disappear altogether. Salvation came in 1961 with the release of the movie, The Hustler, which depicted the dark life of a pool hustler played by Paul Newman.
The Hustler brought about a resurgence of interest in the game and new pool halls opened up all over America. However, by 1985, interest was starting to wane once again and pool hall closures were commonplace. That all changed in 1986 with the release of The Color of Money – a sequel to The Hustler – starting Paul Newman and Tom Cruise.
The Color of Money introduced American pool to a new generation of players, each fancying himself as the next hustler. Once more, there was a resurgence of interest and a number of pool rooms opened for business to serve the demand.
Today, American pool remains a popular game with pool halls operating throughout the world and pool tables being located in many bars, pubs and other entertainment facilities. Often pool tables are used as a supplementary form of entertainment in ten-pin bowling establishments and amusement arcades.