Owzthat - More Outside Sports Tabled Together in 1932
by Peter Berthoud
Owzthat, the classic cricket game, never had a maker’s or manufacturer’s name on the tin and the inventors name had been forgotten for the last 90 years. Even the date when the first sets were sold has been hotly disputed.
The game itself yields few clues to its origins. Most tins only have the word “Owzthat” “Made in Great Britain” and “Reg. Trade Mark. 533475.” Some sets also bear the words “Pat. App. 18960” but often it helps to know where to look for them, more on this in a future post.
In my last post I revealed that Owzthat was registered as a Trade Mark and was Patented in 1932 by Norman Cook of Exchange Street Manchester. The Patent application covers many other sports and contains this revealing drawing!
The drawing shows images of the “apparatus” adapted for cricket, Fig 1 & 2, tennis, Fig. 3 & 4, and bowls, Fig 5 and 6. For bowls just two rollers are illustrated but four were proposed, two for each player, as the best number with which to replicate the outdoor game.
I don’t know if prototypes were produced for tennis and bowls and whether any examples still exist but the rollers for cricket in the drawing are instantly recognisable as a game of Owzthat.
Patent applications must always be made in the name of an inventor or inventors, i.e. an individual human being or a group of humans. A Trade Mark Application can be made by any legal entity, very commonly a company.
Norman Cook of 18 Exchange Street Manchester is named on the Patent application. A company called Norman Cook and Co. of Manchester had their company HQ at 18 Exchange Street, Manchester too. I think it is a reasonable assumption that Norman Cook was probably a person who had some, probably considerable, influence in the firm Norman Cook and Co.. Time may tell the extent of his personal involvement in the invention of Owzthat but for the moment I will continue to refer to him as the inventor.
Application 18960 begins:
I Norman Cook, a British Subject, of 18, Exchange Street, Manchester, in the County of Lancaster do hereby declare the nature of this invention as follows:-
This invention has reference to apparatus for playing games and has for its object to provide apparatus of simple construction and manufacture whereby players can simulate other games, upon a table or other small surface.
By means of this invention, players play “cricket”, “lawn tennis”, “football”, “base ball” or other outside sports upon a table or board.
The later description of the “apparatus” adapted to play simulated cricket is pretty much an exact description of Owzthat and its rules. Precise rules for the invention adapted to play bowls and tennis are also included.
So cricket was just “one embodiment of the invention” he envisaged. I was very surprised to see baseball so high on the list of sports. I didn’t know it was popular in Britain at the time, or perhaps Norman Cook had his eye on a future export market?
Later in the application it is stated that “The rollers may be made of metal or any other suitable material and have any convenient number of flat sides … though not so many as to allow the roller to roll too far, as the enjoyment of the game comes from quick playing.”
I will write again on the history of Owzthat I have uncovered but not until the 1st Test, starting today, is concluded!