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The governors’ billiard rack: A side pocket to Pennsylvania history

September 15, 2014

Filed under Collections, Community and Domestic Life

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Nominated by Collections Advancement Project curator, Carol Buck, this week’s Pennsylvania Treasure is a billiard rack used by Pennsylvania’s governors. The unique piece of furniture was originally housed at the Old Executive Mansion, built in 1864.  Often referred to as Keystone Hall, the mansion was located on Front Street in Harrisburg until its demolition in 1964. This location provided a home for some of the commonwealth’s most notable governors including Andrew Curtin, John Geary, John Hartranft and Samuel Pennypacker.

The billiard rack, which dates to between 1890 and 1920, places the piece at the height of the billiards craze in the United States. The mid-late 1800’s is when both American Four Ball and American Fifteen Ball, close relatives to modern day pool, were developed. With the increasing popularity of the game, billiards competitions and poolrooms began to sprout up.

The most common types of billiard racks or cue stands were wall mounted and held only the balls or only the cue sticks. This elaborate piece of furniture held all equipment for playing the game and for recording the score. The top portion of the rack includes moveable wooden beads for score keeping and six holes on each side of the cabinet held the cues. The shelves at center provided space for pool balls, chalk or other accessories. A double-door cabinet at the bottom provided open storage for any additional items. Unfortunately, the related accessories that would have accompanied this artifact were not included with the donation and have been lost to time.

This billiard rack, used by Pennsylvania’s governors, was originally housed at the Old Executive Mansion, often referred to as Keystone Hall.

This billiard rack, used by Pennsylvania’s governors, was originally housed at the Old Executive Mansion, often referred to as Keystone Hall.

 

About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.