The history of the dart in America

As part of my interest in the history of darts in America I’ve dug into how and where the dart itself came to be. At least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.


Way back, before even I began playing, and before there even was a United States of America, there was a game played called darts, although is wasn’t called darts. Like a lot of famous items and systems and things, there were people in different places who came up with the same idea around the same time in history. The places involved here were actually three, although which of the three was the actual place which gave birth is not able to be confirmed. There were people in what is now Massachusetts, in Penn’s Woods (now Pennsylvania) and in de la War (now Delaware) who all began playing the game at the same general time in history.


There is no written history of this development of the game of darts and this information is gleaned from word of mouth but the story does begin shortly after the people from Europe arrived in Massachusetts.


The game of darts its self started as a game played with rocks being tossed into a ring drawn around camp and cooking fires. At dusk, after eating and before retiring was when the work of the day was completed and there was time for telling stories, playing with children and other idle time activities.


Those involved in telling stories of the day would absently toss a rock into the fire as they did so. This grew into who could do that with the most accuracy. As more and more activity moved in doors due to weather and development of civilization, the pass time took to using smaller, rounded stones being tossed into the fire place, then as fire brands and ashes became an annoyance the end of one a log waiting to be put into the fire became the target of the stones. Who tossed the stone most accurately became a bone of contention and the need for being able to determine that grew.


The rounded stone became a pointed kindling stick and that grew to be a stick with a small point fitted to the end. As the competition became more contentious the more competitive people modified their sticks. The log was eventually moved away from the fire place and changed into a slice of wood which was raised off the floor so to get it out of the reach of the children. It became necessary for the sticks to actually stay in the log long enough to determine the accuracy.


The idle pass time turned into a wagering event with pints of grog being the wager and this brought out the competitiveness of the participants. The better of these competitors would search out the finer twigs of wood and whittle them into smooth rounded bits with points made by blacksmiths. One person, a farmer who had a silver tooth is the only information available and whose name has been lost to history, adapted the feature by Indians of fletching feathers to their arrows to increase the accuracy of the arrows, to the twigs he was using.

Over time the distance the twigs needed to be thrown turned into a rule and the better twig whittlers began selling what they made. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for a twig were at a disadvantage so began competing amongst themselves with their twigs and the others competed with their specially whittled twigs. A person could compete with a twig or a whittled twig. The term for the whittled twig eventually became colloquialized into witties, then widdies.

Eventually the people who were whittling the twigs started a business named the Widdy dart company in eastern Pennsylvania.


I’m still working on how the game came to be known as darts. If anyone has any information about this please forward that to me for history’s sake.


Leave a Reply