Thank goodness for Chalk! Can you imagine a guest in your house twisting their cue into your ceiling to produce some grip to reduce the chances of a miscue!
Well this is what use to happen. Players would place their cue into a plaster ceiling or wall to extract the chalk-like substance.
This widespread practice ended around the 1820s just as tips were coming into play.
In the city of Bath in south west England, John Carr began marketing the first brand of cue chalk called “Twisting Chalk”.
And how Carr drove sales and at the same time how he lost it all, is quite a story.
Employed as a marker for John Bartley who was the owner manager of a Pool Table Parlor in Bath, Carr and Bartley would fill in time during the quiet times by trying to screw the red ball into a middle pocket from the centre spot without bringing the red ball back into baulk.
Bartley was the only one that could do it and eventually told Carr he did it by striking his own ball on its side.
This little piece of information set off a chain of events that would change Carr’s life forever and how the game of Pool was played.
Bartley’s ability to screw the ball into the middle pocket effectively made him the inventor of the side stroke but it was Carr who took this as his cue and with an entrepreneurial brain ran with it.
Carr known as Jack, maybe so as not to confuse him with his employer, soon became a much better player and not only mastered, but adapted the side stroke to other areas of the game.
His trick shots transfixed patrons who wanted to know the secret.
With perfect timing and cunning, Jack told them.
His amazing shots were due to “Twisting-Chalk”.
It just so happens that he had recently invented and had “Twisting-Chalk” on sale which was powdered chalk placed in small pill-boxes.
It was ridiculously over-priced but the players bought it in order to tap into the magic and in came the cash.
But it also quite quickly went out as good ol’ Jack was a chronic gambler. To start a new life, he moved to Spain and through an undefeated playing reign sold even more twisting-chalk but the call of the cards again got the better of him and he eventually returned to England with barely a cent to his name.
It was quite a ride for John “Jack” Carr and even more so considering his original magic pill-boxes were filled with the ground down blocks of chalk that Mr Bartley was already providing for his customers in Bath.
Eventually the twisting chalk hysteria died down as people came to realize it was just chalk. When the cue chalk crossed the Atlantic into America it came with its own jargon. “Put a bit of English on it” was the saying when referring to put some spin on it.
Today chalk is no mystery as the evolution of cue tips denotes the essentialness of chalking up.
Through innovation all chalk produced today is dustless so to speak. It does produce dust but it quickly settles. This is the result of baking chalk for longer which hardens it.
But the truth is that pool cue tip chalk hasn’t been chalk since 1897 when a combination of crushed silica and Corundum (a crystalline form of aluminum oxide) was first used with dye. But who cares.
The only general piece of information about chalk these days is that the professionals consider the harder chalks to be more grip receptive than the not-so-hard.
Let the good times roll at Billiard Shop.