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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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TABLE TENNIS. The sport originated in Victorian England and was played among the upper-class as an after-dinner parlour game. It has been suggested that makeshift versions of the game were developed by British military officers in India around the 1860s or 1870s. A row of books stood up along the center of the table as a net, two more books served as rackets and were used to continuously hit a golf-ball.

It had several different names, including 'whiff-whaff'. The name "ping-pong" was in wide use before British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it in 1901. The name "ping-pong" then came to describe the game played using the rather expensive Jaques's equipment, with other manufacturers calling it table tennis. A similar situation arose in the United States, where Jaques sold the rights to the "ping-pong" name to Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers enforced its trademark for the term in the 1920s making the various associations change their names to "table tennis" instead of the more common, but trademarked, term.

The next major innovation was by James W. Gibb, a British enthusiast of table tennis, who discovered novelty celluloid balls on a trip to the United States in 1901 and found them to be ideal for the game. This was followed by E.C. Goode who, in 1901, invented the modern version of the racket by fixing a sheet of pimpled, or stippled, rubber to the wooden blade. Table tennis was growing in popularity by 1901 to the extent that tournaments were being organized, books being written on the subject, and an unofficial world championship was held in 1902.

In 1921, the Table Tennis Association was founded in Britain, and the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) followed in 1926. London hosted the first official World Championships in 1926. In 1933, the United States Table Tennis Association, now called USA Table Tennis, was formed.

In the 1930s, Edgar Snow commented in Red Star Over China that the Communist forces in the Chinese Civil War had a "passion for the English game of table tennis" which he found "bizarre". On the other hand, the popularity of the sport waned in 1930s Soviet Union, partly because of the promotion of team and military sports, and partly because of a theory that the game had adverse health effects.

In the 1950s, paddles that used a rubber sheet combined with an underlying sponge layer changed the game dramatically and introduced greater spin and speed. These were introduced to Britain by sports goods manufacturer S.W. Hancock Ltd. The use of speed glue increased the spin and speed even further, resulting in changes to the equipment to "slow the game down". Table tennis was introduced as an Olympic sport at the Olympics in 1988.

Source: Wikipedia

In Dubuque

See: Paul W. LEWIS

The YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (Y.M.C.A.) played an important role in Dubuque table tennis. In 1942 the organization sponsored the fourth annual Y. M. C. A. City-Wide Tournament featuring table tennis as one of the sports. (1) In 1943 table tennis was one of the featured sports at the 7th Annual Inter-Service Club Olympics held at the Y. M. C. A. in February. Among the clubs competing was the Kiwanis, Lions, Junior Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary. (2) In 1943 the Tri-State Hobby Show Sports Carnival Games featured table tennis competition in men and boys divisions at the "Y." (3)

Table tennis was one of the activities for adults and youth at the "play centers" opened during WORLD WAR II at Lincoln and Marshall elementary schools and COMISKEY PARK. The activities serving hundreds of people were part of a year-round recreation program sponsored by the Dubuque Recreation Commission. (4) In April, 1945 a four-way playoff between table tennis competitors from the three centers plus the new one at Bryant was held at Lincoln. (5) In 1953 among the 150 winners of awards at the 7th Annual Honors Night at the DUBUQUE BOYS' CLUB were table tennis competitors. (6)

As part of the playground program in Dubuque during the summer of 1950, a table tennis competition was held in boys and girls divisions. Pat Schroeder of the Comiskey Field won in the girls' division while Jim Shaffer of the Jackson School playground won in the boys. (7)

In 1955 high school students from Dubuque and twenty-five other schools attended an annual playday sponsored by physical education students at the University of Iowa. Events included basketball, swimming and table tennis followed by a closing tea. (8) In 1954 the benefits of exercise for older women was the topic of an article in the Telegraph Herald. Among activities mentioned was table tennis. (9)

By 1962 a number of table tennis competitions were featured in Dubuque. These included a Dubuque City Table Tennis Tournament, a Y.M.C.A. tournament in which each weekly winner was ceded in the city tournament, and a contest between DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL and WAHLERT CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL. Both teams then traveled to Davenport in May for competition against Davenport Central and West. (10)

The Dubuque Recreation Department sponsored an indoor recreation program including table tennis from November 20, 1965-March 5, 1966 for students in grades 4-6 at Bryant, Fulton, Irving and Marshall schools. Open to students in any school, the program ran from 9:00 a.m. until noon every Saturday. Activities for students in 7th-9th grades was held from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. on the same days. (11)

The sports magazine Softball Illustrated in 1969 featured the intramural program of Al Schramm at LORAS COLLEGE. Schramm, the chairman of the Department of Physical Education, conducted a year-round program of eighteen sports including table tennis. The article cited the statistic that 80% of the student body participated in one or more of the activities for a total of 1,277 students. (12)

Brad Klug and Dave Less founded the Dubuque Table Tennis Club in 1981. The club has met continuously since that time. For a few years beginning in 2000, the club registered as an Explorer Post with the Boy Scouts in an attempt to attract more high-school age youth. This lasted for only a few years. (13)

Dubuque table tennis enthusiasts watched with interest as "table tennis diplomacy" began in 1971. On April 10th, the United States table tennis team arrived to play several matches in China. They were the first American group to visit behind the "Bamboo Curtain" since the 1950s.

On December 14, 1990 a table tennis clinic was offered at FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST by Scott Butler, the current national champion. The exhibition was sponsored by the Boy Scout Post 21. (14)

In 1992 the Dubuque Table Tennis sponsored the Table Tennis Explorers. Participants paid a fee of $10.00 (15)

Iowa table tennis legends. Houshang Bozorgzadeh (left) from Independence, Iowa and Ames native Dhiren Narotam. Narotam twice represented the Unites States in the World Championships. Bozorgzadeh is a USATT Hall of Fame member, and was the 1988 Olympic table tennis coach for the USA Men's and Women's team. The National Congress of State Games selected Bozorgzadeh from over 500,000 athletes as the male athlete of the year in 2002. Photo courtesy: Paul W. Lewis
Table tennis became a part of the IOWA WINTER GAMES held in Dubuque in 1996. Attending the Games that year was Ames, Iowa native Dhiren Narotam, a world-class competitor, who had been a member of the U. S. national team which competed in the World Championships in Dotmund, Germany in 1889 and Tokyo in 1991. He was also an alternate member of the 1992 U. S. Olympic team. Also present was Independence, Iowa resident Houshang Bozorgzadeh, a native of Iran. (15). Shortly after coming to the United States in 1957, Bozorgzadeh performed a table tennis exhibition on the nationally-televised Ed Sullivan Show.

In 2000 there were 48 contestants in Winter games table tennis competition. This rose to 54 the following year. The numbers ranged from a low of 43 in the 1998 Games to 58 in 1997. (17)

By 2005, the Winter Games played an important role in table tennis. Because there were few table tennis competitions in Iowa, it was difficult for players to perform at the championship level. To enter championship level table tennis, a person had to compete in sanctioned tournaments. (18)



1. "YMCA Tourney Ends: Several New Champions," Telegraph Herald, April 12, 1942, p. 21

2. "Plan Olympics at 'Y' February 15," Telegraph Herald, February 4, 1943, p. 31

3. "Jack Schiltz Wins First in Swim Events," Telegraph Herald, April 8, 1943, p. 11

4. "Play Centers Attract Many," Telegraph Herald, October 22, 1944, p. 18

5. "Dance Program Expanded Here," Telegraph Herald, April 11, 1945, p. 11

6. "150 Club Members Get Awards," Telegraph Herald, April 26, 1953, p. 11

7. "Comiskey, Jackson Win Table Tennis Titles," Telegraph Herald, July 23, 1950, p. 2

8. "Area Students Attend Playday at Iowa City," Telegraph Herald, March 18, 1955, p. 3

9. "Older Women Can Enjoy Sports Too," Telegraph Herald, August 9, 1954, p. 4

10. "Eagles Defeat Ram Netters," Telegraph Herald, May 2, 1962, p. 7

11. "Indoor Recreation Program Planned for City Youths," Telegraph Herald, November 15, 1965, p. 2

12. "Loras Program Rates Story," Telegraph Herald, January 29, 1969, p. 12

13. E-mail from Paul W. Lewis. April 6, 2017

14. "Table Tennis Clinic Slated," Telegraph Herald, December 12, 1990, p. 7

15. "Explorer Scout Clubs," Telegraph Herald, September 7, 1992, p. 6

16. Nelson, Christopher. "Table Tennis Bounces Into Iowa Winter Games Lineup," Telegraph Herald, January 23, 1996, p. 11

17. Speltz, Bill. "Table Tennis Just a Matter of Who's Hot," Telegraph Herald, February 4, 2001, p. 34

18. Nevans-Pederson, Mary, "Sport Moves Out of Rec Room," Telegraph Herald, February 6, 2005, p. 1