Did Bingo Originate in Telfair County?
‘As strange as it seems,” declared the late Julian Williams in a 2006 article, “most game authorities agree that Bingo was discovered at Jacksonville, Ga., in 1929.” Williams wrote that in 1929, a Mr. Edwin S. Lowe, a New York toy salesman was in Georgia to find new ideas for his employer. One evening, Mr. Lowe found himself in Jacksonville, Georgia, and decided to spend the night before going on his way.
Mr. Williams cites The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reporting that an Edwin S. Lowe discovered Bingo while visiting a country carnival near Jacksonville, Georgia. In addition, he reported that a search of Strangelife.com, revealed an article by Bingo expert Roger Snowden that stated:
“It was an evening in December of 1929 when a very tired New York salesman, Edwin S. Lowe, decided to drive on to Jacksonville, Georgia, so that he might have an early start for his next day’s appointments. The year before, with two employees and $1,000 capital, Lowe had set up his own toy company. Soon after the market crashed and the outlook for his budding firm looked bleak indeed. A few miles from Jacksonville, Lowe came around a bend in the road and was greeted by bright lights of a country carnival.”
Out of curiosity, Lowe stopped at the carnival. What he found was a crowd of excited people playing a game called “Beano.” It seems the crowd had before them a homemade card with the letters B-E-A-N-O at the top of five columns and numbers beneath each column. The pitchman was calling out numbers. The participants would put beans on the numbers that were called out. When a participant had lined up these numbers vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, they would call out “Beano”. The prize was a kewpie doll.
Well, you can imagine what happened next. Lowe went back to New York and had cards printed. He introduced Beano to his friends and colleagues. One night while the game was being played, one excited lady, after lining up her beans, shouted “BINGO” instead of “BEANO.” According to Williams’ article, Lowe’s reaction was:
I cannot describe the same sense of elation which that girl’s cry brought to me. All I could think of was that I was going to come out with this game and that it was going to be called “Bingo.”
Needless to say, the rest is history. Mr. Lowe marketed the game of Bingo and even went so far as to hire professional mathematicians to find many more combination of numbers to make the game better and more challenging. Edwin Lowe went on to invent the popular game of “Yahtzee”. He then sold his company to Milton Bradley Company for over twenty-six million dollars. For many years, Milton Bradley noted on their Bingo packages that “Bingo was discovered in Jacksonville, Ga., in 1929.”
Whether this story is true or not, it is a tale worth telling. If you would like to read the entire article by the late Julian Williams, you may do so by reading the July 19, 2006, issue of the Douglas Enterprise.