How to Throw Darts Begins with the Board
No-one is really sure where and when the game of Darts began – but it most likely did not begin indoors in a pub. It was most likely a game developed outdoors by hunters or crusaders in western Europe, perhaps France. It was later brought to America on ships like the Mayflower and while the native Americans used arrows for hunting, it’s not likely that this was part of the games origin.
You heard me right when I said the game originated in France – – – the English Pub game was most likely imported from France in the mid-nineteenth century. It was possibly descended from a game called “puff and dart” dating back to the sixteenth century. In this game a type of small blow-dart/pipe was aimed at a wooden target, probably a section of an ash or oak tree trunk or perhaps the bottom of the barrel or keg, after the beer has been consumed, of course.
The early ancestor of modern-day darts was probably carved from wood with a sharpened metal point and adorned with turkey feathers. These were fairly light in weight so accuracy was somewhat lacking. Perhaps you now realize where modern fairs and carnivals got their idea of what darts should look like.
My friend and I once went to the Long Beach Pier and approached the vendor of the dart game, who offered us wooden darts, and said we could choose the ones we wanted to toss. We promptly whipped out the case in our back pockets and proceeded to fit-up our own tungston darts to toss at the balloon targets. Of course the vendor cried “Foul” and invited us to leave.
Ah, well – – – if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!
Back to the boards. Early boards consisted of scoring rings etched or painted on the surface of a tree section, much like the growth rings that came naturally. And to help with the accuracy of the wooden darts, lead bands were added for weights. The transition to paper “feathers” began in late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century. Soon the brass barrels were introduced and the modern-day dart was born.
In the early part of the twentieth century, modeling clay targets (I cannot call them “boards”) became popular. These devices had to be rolled from time to time and gave off a strange, unpleasant smell. This was remedied when odorless modeling clay was introduced with limited success but these boards were called “nodor” (for “no odor”) and that name is still attached to boards today.
Nodor, in 1935, produced a dartboard made from short pieces of rope fiber bound together vertically and the modern bristle board was born. One final change arrived with the arrival of soft-tipped darts and plastic “feathers” or “flights” which led to the advent of the electronic-scoring dartboard!
Here endeth the lesson – – – next time we’ll talk about how to set the board up, lighting, the Oche, and maybe even get into modern-day darts, their shapes, weights, construction, etc. Meanwhile, go to your local pub, toss a few darts, toss down a few brewskis and relax.
Eric “BullShooter” Rychener