Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Carom and Crokinole

by Anita Mae Draper

The deciding shot, 1903. Public Domain, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

While researching images for my series of board games posts, I came across this photograph of children sitting around a table playing a board game. Half of a stereograph, the caption reads, The Deciding Shot, with the image summary as, "6 children playing board game - caroms?" 

I hadn't heard of caroms, but it looked like they were playing crokinole, a game I've played many times as a child as well as an adult. According to Wikipedia, caroms, carroms, or carom, is a tabletop game with its origins in India and is still very popular in southeast Asia where tournaments are commonly held.

A carrom board, undated, Public Doman, Wikipedia

The Asian game board didn't look like the crokinole board I'm familiar with, although it did have the corner pockets, wooden playing pieces, and center hole. The method of play is also different which starts with all the pieces in the center ring and uses a larger, heavier piece called a striker to push opponent's pieces into the pockets, much like the start of a pool game. Also similar to pool, is the red piece which is designated as the queen and acts much like the eight-ball in billiards. 

Carrom men and one striker, arranged at the start of a game. Public Domain, Wikipedia

Further research on the Library of Congress website brought up a photograph of boys playing caroms in a Boys Club recreation center, yet they were using what looks like pool cues. It seems that in the late 19th century, missionaries to Asia brought the game of carrom back with them and altered it as an attempt to lure young boys away from hanging around the pool halls where gambling was a regular occurrence.

Scenes in Boys Club Recreation Center: playing caroms in junior play room, ca 1910; Public Domain, Library of Congress prints and Photographs Division 

In fact, there is another carom game which uses pool cues, two white balls, and a red ball which is played on a billiard table and was available prior to 1869 which may have been the inspiration for the version created by the missionaries. 

New rules for the American Carom game. as played on the standard America Carom billiard table. 1869; Public Doman, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

As I continued my search for early crokinole boards, I found an image of a 1915 advertising pamphlet from The Carrom Company of Ludington, Michigan, showing a carom game board with the game pieces and cues, and selling as 'Pool Crokinole', however due to copyright, I can't post the image here.

Finally, a page out of the 1905 Holiday Catalogue from the John Wanamaker store shows a crokinole board, as well as a combination board where a variety of different games could be played on either side. It's interesting to note that although the crokinole board shows a hand without the cue stick, only the combination board shows pockets.

1905 Holiday Catalogue, John Wanamaker. Public Domain

1905 Holiday Catalogue, John Wanamaker. Public Domain

Instead of a cue stick, crokinole involves flicking your finger against the inside of your thumb to gain the force necessary to propel your playing piece across the board and enable it to not only hit, but push your opponent's piece off the playing surface. 

Crokinole shot, 2010. Flikr, wafterboard

According to Wikipedia, the first known crokinole board was made in 1876, Ontario, Canada, when Eckhardt Wettlaufer crafted a board for his son Adam's 50th birthday. Then in 1880, a similar crokinole board game was patented in the United States by Joshua K Ingalls. It is thought that crokinole is the marriage of British and Asian games that were popular in the 1860's, which makes sense when we find that the carom versions were present during that time as well. 

Crokinole sets can be found with plastic or wooden playing pieces. There are even crokinole travel bags to carry your huge board with you when attending family gatherings, or playing in tournaments, like the World Crokinole Championship (WCC) which is played annually in Ontario every June. 

To get back to the image at the top of this post then, due to the 1903 designation, the children's hand positions, and the playing piece, my guess is that image shows a group of children playing crokinole.

What do you think?


Anita Mae Draper lives on the Canadian prairies where she uses her experience and love of history to enhance her stories of yesteryear's romance with realism and faith. Readers can enrich their story experience with visual references by checking Anita's Pinterest boards. All links available on her website at


  1. We played Carom with our children. Although it was a combination board with several other games you could play on the board. It was perfect for our small house during winter. The kids could get excited, compete and not break anything in the house in the process. LOL! Both the boys and girls enjoyed the game. My husband and our friends would play with the kids. Once video games came on teh scene it wasn't played so much anymore by the kids. However, I think the uniqueness of it would appeal to my grandchildren. Thanks for the post.

    1. Very interesting, Jubileewriter. I hope you get to play it with your grandchildren and introduce another generation to the game. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Fascinating. I've heard of Carom but never learned how to play, and I've never heard of Crokinole. My husband and I love board games, and the post makes me want to go out and find these so we can play. Thanks for posting.

    1. Linda, I hope you get a chance to play. Although many of the boards are made from heavy cardboard, the wooden crokinole boards are bringing a hefty price these days since it's considered vintage and many people use it as wall art.
      I don't know why we never stored ours on a wall when we had it. It would have made a great conversation piece.
      Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. I had never heard of this game at all. My family wasn't big on games other than cards once in a while (for the adults). Thanks for posting this!!

    1. Connie, my husband's family was big on cards, too. Most of the best times he remembers with each of his aunts and grandmothers were them teaching him how to play cards while talking On the other hand, cards were 'the devil's work' in our house, so board games were big in our house.
      I must admit that my husband is the one that bought the crokinole board when we married, and he always beat me at it. I had a problem flicking the wooden pieces, and he spared me no quarter. LOL

  4. Interesting! I've never heard of this game before.

    1. Well, Vickie, I'm very glad I posted about it then. :)
      Thanks for stopping by.