The History of Ping Pong

The answer to the question “who invented table tennis?” is … Englishman David Foster.

An English Patent (number 11,037) was filed on July 15, 1890 when David Foster of England introduced the first action game of tennis on a table in 1890. Only one example is known to have survived and it’s now on display in the International Table Tennis Federation’s (ITTF) Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Foster’s Parlour Table Games was a compendium of table versions of Cricket, Football and Lawn Tennis.

The table tennis game featured elegant strung rackets, a 30mm cloth covered rubber ball, a small wooden perimeter fence and elaborate side nets to catch stray balls.

Emma Barker would follow. On January 21, 1891, Emma Barker (London) filed for an American patent (number 454,700). It was actually for a net fixture. The patent has a sketch of a table, laid out like a lawn tennis court, describing the game as played much like lawn tennis, using rackets with straps for the hands. An 1891 advertisement in the USA by Spalding proves that the game was made under the name Indoor Tennis.

Then there was…Gossima by John Jaques. Although John Jaques is sometimes quoted as the person who invented table tennis, this is not correct. On July 16, 1891 – a full year after David Foster’s Table Tennis game in 1890 – John Jaques & Son of Hatton Garden, London, England registered Gossima (Trademark number 157,615). It used vellum drum battledores – first seen in a shuttlecock game, a large 50mm webbed cork ball and a 30cm high net.

[source: International Table Tennis Federation]

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