Last NameSportCountryYear Inducted
Sport: Bowling
Inducted: 1996
Country: United States
Born: October 6, 1819, in Bengarten, Switzerland
Died: July 25, 1886

John Brunswick is the founder of the bowling and billiard manufacturing empire. A small carriage manufacturer in Cincinnati, Ohio, Brunswick built his—and America’s—first billiards table in 1845, a milestone that would spark the growth and popularization of the game worldwide. Within two years of the introduction of that first table, orders were arriving from both sides of the Atlantic. Brunswick’s tables were outrageously ornate by contemporary standards, and the best of them were often considered works of art.

In 1888, two years after his death, the company entered the bowling manufacturing business. In 1890, Brunswick’s son-in-law, Moses Bensinger, was named Brunswick president. Under his stewardship, the Brunswick company became a major factor in developing and popularizing various versions of the sport of bowling, particularly tenpin bowling, throughout the world.

Brunswick emigrated to the United States in 1834 and after working as an errand boy in New York City, found employment in Philadelphia as an apprentice carriage maker. Eventually settling with his family in Cincinnati, Ohio, he worked for two years as a steward on an Ohio River steamer, before opening his own carriage works in 1845. In 1848, sensing the need to expand his burgeoning billiards business, Brunswick summoned
his half-brothers from Switzerland, and a sales office was established in Chicago, Illinois.

As the company grew to become a worldwide household name, it underwent several name changes. In 1872, John M. Brunswick & Brothers became known as J. M. Brunswick Billiards Manufacturing Co. In 1884, after successful mergers with Julius Balke’s Great Western Billiard Manufactory and Hugh Collender’s Phelan & Collender Company, the name was
transformed into Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, a name it retained until becoming the Brunswick Corporation in 1960.

In 1995, the Illinois State Historical Society presented the Brunswick Corporation with its Sesquicentennial Business Award in commemoration of the company’s 150th anniversary. It was the first Sesquicentennial Award ever conferred by the Society. The company has also been recognized as Chicago’s oldest continuously independent public company.

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