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A Concise History of the Game of Cornhole

In 1325, in the fields surrounding villages in the northern part of Bavaria, farmers gathered annually in May to celebrate the return of the growing season, as spring burst out upon the land.

It was there that Matthias Kuepermann, a cabinet maker renowned for his skillful carpentry, lived and peddled his wares.

One fine May morning, Kuepermann was out taking his daily stroll down through the farm fields of corn and wheat, when he came upon several young boys tossing stones back and forth trying to hit a hole that had been carefully dug in the ground, it seems, by a ground hog. 

Unfortunately, in the short time he watched, Kuepermann noticed that the children were constantly in danger of being hit by a flying rock, since the ones standing near the hole (to collect the stones) were in the way of the “toss”, and the boys were not very good with their aiming.

And so, Kuepermann returned to his home and set about trying to lessen the dangerousness of the game the children were playing.  The stones were obviously the problem, weighing about 1 Pfund, in Old German, or about 1.13 pounds.

Realizing that 1 pound seemed to be about right for tossing just shy of 2 Ruthens (an Old German measurement of approximately 16 feet), Kuepermann decided to look around for something less dangerous to toss.

Corn, which was abundant and easy to grow all across Europe was a common commodity sold by weight just like most other commodities. Weight scales became a common way to sell or barter most goods. Metals such as iron were mainly used for weaponry and were too rare to obtain to use as weights for scales. More commonly, corn was poured into cupped hands and poured into burlap bags and tied. This was used as a unit of measure. That measurement even today is approx. 16 ounces or 1 pound. Pounds are still a unit of measure (commonly money) in a few countries today. Bags or (pounds) were placed on one side of the scale while the other commodity was placed on the other side, thus measuring the commodity for sale. Many 1 pound corn bags had to be used to weigh heavy commodities such as grain and flour which were sold in larger burlap bags. After a day at the market weighing and selling their goods, merchants would then have their help collect all the weighted bags and place them in wooden boxes with lids so the rodents wouldn't chew thru the burlap to get to the corn.

Now back to Kuepermann.  Matthias recognized that these bags were just the item and set about constructing a box with a 6 inch hole that could be used as a “goal”.    After showing the game to the locals, Kuepermann was astounded by the interest in his concoction.  Owing to the wood requirements, the unbridled popularity of the game resulted in the deforesting of much of middle Europe, actually, and caused great concern among woodworkers who were not “cornhole friendly”. 

Thus, it came to pass that many noble merchants in wood products sought recourse from their lords, and thereby resulted the Corn Laws of Britain, which were first enacted in the 15th Century.  Enforcing exorbitant tariffs on the import of corn and other grains, these laws caused a great uproar in the Cornhole Game trade; production of the bags of corn for tournament play became cost prohibitive.

Soon thereafter, the game fell into oblivion and did not surface again, until German emigrants to the new world, revived the game in the area of Cincinnati, where corn was plentiful, (not to mention beer, which became the staple beverage of the game).

The rest, well, is history.

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