ABCs roots can be traced to many people. One was Thomas Curtis, who became ABC's first president and chaired several historic meetings that produced an organization that succeeded where others had failed.
The adoption of rules at the Sept. 9, 1895 meeting in New York's Beethoven Hall, and most important, the distribution of nearly 1,000 copies by mail to bowling groups in many parts of the United States, was the move which created interest and trust in the fledgling group. Within a few months, there were members in Buffalo, N.Y., Cincinnati, Lowell, Mass., Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Wheeling, W. Va., Kansas City and Quebec.
After that, representatives of local, state and provincial associations like these have annually met in convention to review rules and consider proposed changes. Also elected were officers and directors, all of whom serve voluntarily and without pay. The only exceptions were the executive director and assistant director, who oversaw the home office staff.
Service was ABC's aim since its early days. Service began when a league formed and applied for sanction. The sanction, with membership cards distributed to each bowler, gives ABC a record of its membership and entitled the league and its members to the following services:
- Automatic bonding to protect bowler funds from theft, burglary and misuse.
- Awards for every level of achievement from 300 games to 700 and 800 series to league champions, most improved league bowlers and those who bowl a game of 100 and a series of 150 or more pins above or more pins above average.
- Essential tools for league officers including rulebooks, schedules, handicap charts, average calculators and other aids.
- Rules advice and counseling.
- Free tournament sanctioning.
- Equally important in maintaining standard bowling conditions are the programs of lane certification and equipment testing and research. Every lane is checked and measured each season to assure it meets ABC/Womens International Bowling Congress specifications. Pins, automatic pinsetting machines, scoring devices and other allied equipment undergo thorough and lengthy testing before receiving approval for use in ABC sanctioned league or tournament competition.
- Publicizing the inner workings of the Congress, as well as the feats of bowlers coast to coast, is the role of the Public Relations department. Bowlers were as well informed as any sports group in the world through ABC's membership publication, American Bowler and through news releases, pamphlets, brochures and other publications.
Although the service programs have been thorough, new groups created special attention. In 1963, ABC added a Seniors program and designed a complete set of services for the nation's senior citizens. The ABC National Seniors Tournament for men 55 and older was initiated in 1964 and expanded to reach every state in 1982.
In 1966, a Collegiate Division was initiated by the Congress to provide a program for the nation's college men while at the same time bridging the service gap between junior and adult competition.
With the formation of the Young American Bowling Alliance in 1982, the Collegiate Division became a part of that organization. It was returned to the ABC/WIBC in 1998 and renamed College Bowling USA.
The most spectacular of ABC's many services was the national championship tournament, the oldest bowling event in the nation. A fixture on the sports scene since 1901, it is unrivaled as a participant spectacle. Held in America's major cities, the ABC Tournament runs 12 to 16 hours daily for more than 100 consecutive days.
On lanes specially-installed in public arenas, as many as 17,000 teams and 92,000 individuals participate each year. The prize fund exceeds $4 million.
ABCs glamour event was the Masters, which matched the world's greatest bowlers in head-to-head double elimination competition following qualifying round play. Each match consists of three games throughout the competition unless the finals are televised. In that event, a stepladder format takes precedent.
ABC started a new tournament in 1992 aimed at bringing the sport back to its team roots. The World Team Challenge features a nationwide qualifying tour leading to a Grand Championship.
In conjunction with WIBC, ABC launched the Festival of Bowling in 1999. It provides a wide variety of formats for bowlers to enter as often as they like. It later became the National Mixed Championships.
Whether through leagues or tournaments, ABC provided its members options, all with the aim of having fun.