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    The History of DartsErik writes "The ‘fact’ that darts was exported to America on board The Mayflower in 1620 is probably the most repeated piece of darts history you will ever read or hear.

    The Myth

    It is so simple and so succinct. Just image the scenario. English folks who love playing darts were persecuted for their religious beliefs, flee the country by boat to find a new life in the New World and, quite naturally of course, take England’s Number One pub recreation with them on board, namely darts.

    For a long time this ‘fact’ has been accepted as legitimate darts history, so much so that it appears regularly in pub quizzes.

    Question: “What English game was taken to America on The Mayflower in 1620?” Answer: “Darts.”

    Real answer? Well, it was definitely not darts.

    The passengers on board The Mayflower were Puritans who detested everything and anything to do with alcohol and the alehouse. Thus there was no way they would ever promote such an activity. Their religious doctrine simply did not allow it. Darts was contrary to everything they stood for.

    Imagine the Captain of The Mayflower locking up his house as he prepared to leave England for the last time, then, tapping his top pocket, pausing and turning to his betrothed and saying, “Forsooth my love. I have lefteth my darts in myst bedside table. Please goeth and retrieveth them for me.”

    Those responsible

    A darts book published in the late 1960s started it all. The author wrote, ‘It has been said that the Pilgrim Fathers amused themselves by playing darts aboard the Mayflower in the year 1620.’ By the late 1970s, the myth was appearing in darts books whenever the history of the sport was mentioned. One volume published in America recalled ‘…there are references, in the Mayflower’s logs, to darts as a pastime of the Pilgrims on board the vessel’.

    At about the same time, over in the UK, another author declared that ‘Crude ‘darts’ are said to have been used by the Pilgrim Fathers on board the Mayflower as they sailed to the New World in 1620.’ But the seal of approval to this dollop of fiction came in 1973 when an entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (14th Edition) read ‘Darts is recorded as a pastime of the Pilgrim Fathers on board the Mayflower in 1620.’

    It must be true then. (Not!)

    The truth

    This myth was finally dispelled by research published in 2001 by American darts researcher, historian and fellow myth-buster, Dan William Peek in his book To the Point – The Story of Darts in America. Dan discovered that there is no mention of darts in the log of The Mayflower and no evidence whatsoever that darts arrived in the USA by that route.

    Recent evidence suggests that Irish immigrants took the game to America in the late Victorian/early Edwardian period. At that time, it had limited impact, remaining more a child’s toy than an adult recreation for many decades. Previous to that the Native Americans had been making makeshift darts for centuries from such things as corn cobs.

    Darts became increasingly popular in the USA and Canada after the Second World War when military personnel stationed in Britain visited the traditional English pubs, became fascinated by darts and eventually took the game home with them.
    So, theories abound…

    But has anyone to date, apart from Dan Peek, actually tried to pinpoint the real starting places for the popularizing of darts in the USA?
    What is exactly the history of darts in America? I have to admit that I really don’t know.
    Over to you.

    Dr. Patrick Chaplin
    Note: This article is based on a section of Patrick’s most recent book, 180! Fascinating Darts Facts published by The History Press (2012). See


    "WHAT EXACTLY IS THE HISTORY OF DARTS IN AMERICA?" | Login/Create an Account | 6 comments | Search Discussion
    The comments are owned by the poster. We aren't responsible for their content.

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    by Charis on Thursday, September 12 @ 09:05:15 UTC
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    From what I know about Darts history (most I know from Patrick Chaplin) there is no proof at all that at the time of the Pilgrim Fathers something like Darts was really played in England at all.

    But of course it's a nice story!!!

    In the end it were British and Irish immigrants who brought darts to the USA but it was some centuries later...

    by Erik on Monday, October 07 @ 16:34:39 UTC
    (User Info | Send a Message | Journal)
    It would be nice to hear from US players what they know of History on this side of the pond ;)  I'm sure many have some stories to tell.

    by WC on Saturday, October 12 @ 10:41:46 UTC
    (User Info | Send a Message)

    US servicemen on Viet Nam R&R in Australia and Vung Tau during the 1960's and 1970's started and fueled the explosion of British Darts in the USA in the 1970's and 1980"s.

    "Vung Tau, Vietnam, Pleasure Capital of the World," with its heavy Australian and New Zeland presence + R&R in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, Australia by untold thousands of US sevicemen. 

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