Mission: Impossible is the modern-day James Bond franchise, though I
1902 marked the start of a two year Ping Pong frenzy – cars, games and theaters were abandoned and even the Boer war was forgotten. With ping pong dances, cocktails, songs and clothes – even the Tsar of Russia and King of England were obsessed.
#1 This 1902 rhyme shows the level of pin pong mania: “Ping-pong shoes and ping-pong ties, / Ping-pong cakes, and ping-pong clothes, Ping-pong cigarettes, cigars, / Ping-pong motors, ping-pong cars, Ping-pong couches, ping-pong beds, / Ping-pong hats for ping-pong heads, Ping-pong carpets, ping-pong veils, / Ping-pong plasters for your corns, / Ping-pong whistles, ping-pong horns, / Ping-pong goods and ping-pong trash.”
#2 A stiff sounding ping pong cocktail is listed in Tom Daly’s 1903 Bartender’s Encyclopedia: wormwood bitters, ginger cordial, gin, Scotch whiskey, a cherry and an orange twist.
#3 At sea there was no escape. The New York Times reported that the craze was the new thing aboard the transatlantic liner Campania, accompanied (of course) by ping pong punch. Alice Roosevelt held a ping pong dance on the presidential yacht and Edwin Gould named his yacht the Ping Pong.
#4 In the world of business and politics ping pong madness ruled – brokers installed ping pong rooms on Wall Street and politicians called for tables to be installed in their headquarters.
#5 The news reported that the nation had gone mad: “Bridge cards have been laid aside, motoring is neglected, the theatres are abandoned, and even the Boer war is forgotten in the delights of this new fad.”
Not to play was to be a total social outcast.
#6 But you could have too much of a good thing, and a painful condition called ‘ping pong ankle’ was reported in medical journals.
#7 Products offered a competitive edge such as the: ‘Poly-Kurv Ping Pong Glasses’ which promised better vision without having to twist your head.
#8 Such was the level of devotion to ping pong that some religious groups became morally concerned about whether it was proper to allow it to be played in church building.
#9 Things got really silly with the ‘Ping Pong Letter,’ ‘Bicycle Ping Pong’ and even animal related ping pong. The Ringling Brothers circus even had sea lions playing it!
#10 The King of England and Tsar Nicholas II were said to be fans, the latter quoted in the press as saying: “A man cannot be regarded as a great diplomatist unless he is also great at this new game—position and ping-pong go hand in hand.”
#11 But by 1904 the thrill had gone, ping pong was no more, it had gone the same way as rival firm Slazenger’s rival game “Whiff-Whaff”!
[You can read more in Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America: Steve Grant]