Pool Hall Contest Ends in Riot

Anytime you throw men, booze and pool into an equation, with a little competition on the side, you’re asking for trouble. This hypothesis is tested and proven true according to an article in the Washington Post from October 30th, 1900.

pool hall in the early 1900s (source unknown)
pool hall in the early 1900s (source unknown)

Two men, who seem to be friends, or at least drinking buddies, were engaged in a city championship game of pool. At the game’s conclusion, it doesn’t end well for one of the competitors.

A pool game played at 1230 Pennsylvania avenue northwest last night between “Farmer” Wilson and Roanoke Wallace to decide the championship of the District, ended in a free-for-all fight at midnight, during which the “Farmer” was badly beaten by an infuriated mob of his former friends, who accused him of deliberately throwing the game to his opponent.

The game had been thoroughly advertised among a certain set of young men, and as both players are clever handlers of the cue, a close contest was anticipated. Wilson and Wallace each had a large crowd of friends at the game, and a considerable sum of money was wagered on the result, the Wilson contingent being especially confident in their opinion.

Oh, one more ingredient … gambling. That’s not going to help.

The poolroom at the above number was packed to suffocation last night when the two players began the evening’s tournament, and the betting continued until, it is alleged, Wilson began showing symptoms of “playing off.” Comparatively easy shots were missed with a striking abandon, and the result was that Wallace came out an easy winner, much to the disgust of those who had laid their money on Wilson. This feeling of disgust flamed into one of revenge when it was whispered about that the “farmer” had deliberately sold the game to the Wallace outfit.

For shame! The Black Sox scandal of Washington’s pool hall dives.

When Wilson left the place after the game the sidewalk in front of the poolroom was crowded with angry young men, one of whom openly accused the player. Hot words followed, and in a minute the player was assailed from all points of the compass by the mob, which closed in on him and proceeded to beat him in the face and on the body, regardless of the fact that Wilson was crying for quarter and trying to protect himself by holding his arms over his head, He was soon knocked down, and before the police arrived was almost insensible from the terrible beating he had received. A number of policemen, attracted by the noise, rushed to the scene, at which the crowd scattered. Wilson also made himself scarce. He went into a neighboring hotel, where he was put to bed and his wounds dressed.

William Wheatley, said to be one of Wilson’s assailants, gave the police a merry chase down Pennsylvania avenue before he was finally rounded up near Tenth street. When taken to the First precinct station it was found that none of the officers could make a complaint against him and it was decided to let the young man go home.

This sounds like a rowdy Saturday night in Adams Morgan. Speaking of which, do you remember Kokopooli’s? I used to shoot pool there all the time with friends. Sadly, that was almost ten years ago. That place was one of the hidden gems of 18th St.

A more aristocratic confrontation than described in this story (Library of Congress)
A more aristocratic confrontation than described in this story (Library of Congress)

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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