Edwin Lowe is credited as being the Father of the game Bingo but it’s abingo murky paternity. Lowe was a toy merchandiser in the late 1920s. At a traveling carnival near Atlanta, on December 1, 1929, he noticed players involved tooth and nail in a game called Beano in which they placed beans on numbers on a card as the numbers were called by an official number caller. Lowe took the idea back to New York with him where he amazed his friends with it. It’s popularity grew, and Lowe’s finances grew with it. The name Bingo was said to have originated when an excited player yelled “Bingo” instead of “Beano,” although some conspiracy theorists say the word had been used in England for some 150 years.

Further clouding the picture are the French (as the French will do). They created a similar game called Le Lotto back in in 1778. And they probably plagiarized the Italian Il Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia from the 1500s.

For those who may be in the Bingo dark, today’s typical game uses the numbers 1 through 75 arranged on a card in five columns headed by the letters B – I -N- G – O. Each column has five numbers arranged vertically The B’ column contains only numbers between 1 and 15, the ‘I’ column contains 16 through 30 and so on. When a player covers five numbers, horizontally, vertically or diagonally, the lucky devil shouts “Bingo!” to the great dismay of everyone else.

The game is now pretty much the province of little old ladies who command dozens of Bingo cards and whom you’d better not mess with if you know what’s good for you. Last year an 18-year-old Kentucky lad was barred by a judge from uttering the word “bingo” for six months after he falsely did that while working security at a Bingo hall. A police officer arrested him for his disorderly conduct which delayed the game by several minutes, causing alarm and real consternation to patrons. Chances are, he was taken into protective custody when the patrons, primarily elderly women, began yelling, cussing and threatening him. The officer explained that you can’t shout “out” in a ballpark or “fire” in a crowded theater.

And in England, two grandmothers were permanently banned from a local Bingo club after an argument over a ‘lucky’ seat led to a broken nose and two black eyes.




2 thoughts on “December 1, 1929: Gimme a B, Gimme an I . . .

  1. Wow, I never knew the numbering system for Bingo.

    Which begs the question, why do they announce the letters when calling the numbers during the game? Instead of saying “B-14”, why not just say “14”, since there is no 14 under the I, N, G or O columns?

    It would speed up the game, and there would be more time for TV time outs… and then the game would probably not run over into “Heidi”. But I digress.

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