One of the first things you need to know about American darts is the name Widdy. It's a funny name, but Widdy takes American darts seriously. In fact, Philadelphia-based Widdy played a major role in putting American darts on the map. To many players, especially on the East Coast near the coal region of northeast Pennsylvania where it is thought to have originated almost 100 years ago, Widdy darts on a Widdy dartboard is still the only game to play.
Pubs Equal Darts? Only if You Answer to a King or Queen
Whereas darts were played with fervor in British pubs during the 1920s, in the United States this was the decade of Prohibition, so the game was played mostly in clubs and social halls. It was not until 1933, the end of Prohibition, that the game of darts in the United States moved into bars and pubs.
Unlike the British pub version of darts, American darts is based on the game of baseball and requires a special board. American darts became popular with soldiers stationed in England during World Wars I and II; perhaps a purely Yankee reaction to their Cricket-playing allies.
"Have Fun ... Relax ... Play Darts"
These are the words you'll usually find printed on official Widdy dart board cabinets. Not such a bad idea, particularly when you consider soldiers attempting to take a break from war by playing darts. Certainly, American darts would remind them of home, with its foundation in a sport so American: baseball.
Widdy became so popular and well-known as a supplier of darts and dart boards that even the U.S. War Department placed an order for almost 1 million darts in 1943 to be shipped to armed forces throughout the world. The soldiers, however, never received their darts. The department stopped Widdy's production when it realized the company was using the same steel and lead that was needed for the war.
Wooden or paper
One of the reasons Widdy boards are so popular today, besides being well-constructed and distinctively handsome, is their vintage and historical appeal.
Widdy wooden boards are constructed of end grain pieces of basswood (wood from a linden tree) and are pieced together by hand. They are usually made of two sections: The center ring, which can be rotated for better and more even wear, and the outer section. Boards are reversible as well, which effectually doubles the life of every Widdy.
Widdy paper boards are meant to last forever as long as you twist the dart during retrieval. The paper is so tightly wound that when darts enter the board, they slide between the layers of paper and do not damage the board as quickly as they would a wooden board. Still, it's a good idea to use sharp Widdy darts no matter which style of board you choose.
Whether you choose a board made out of wood or paper, you'll enjoy your Widdy dart board and all the history that comes with it.