By James Zug
Historically, both racquet and racket have been used in the game; here racquet is used for consistency and historical accuracy, except when referring to an organization’s title. International squash (or softball) is the norm, unless the North American version of squash, hardball, is indicated.
In the 1850s boys at Harrow School outside London, England create a version of the popular game of racquets. They use a small rubber ball—rubber having just been vulcanized in the 1840s—and sawed-off racquets and play in alleys and courtyards.
In January Harrow opens three courts for the game of Rugby fives or handball. The schoolboys use the courts to play their new game which they called baby racquets, soft racquets or squash racquets.
The first squash court outside Harrow is built by an Old Harrovian at his home in Oxford, England.
In November James Conover, a teacher at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, USA, builds the first squash courts outside England; Conover copies the Harrow courts by consulting with his college roommate, an Old Harrovian.
In March the Boston Athletic Association in the USA, having just opened a clubhouse with a Rugby fives court, hosts what is believed to be the world’s first squash tournament; it is won by Richard D. Sears, the U.S. national tennis champion.
The first book on squash, The Game of Squash by Eustace Miles, is published in New York, USA.
The Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin builds the first court in Ireland.
The world’s first inter-club squash league is founded with seven Philadelphia, USA squash clubs.
- First court in Canada is built at the St. John’s Tennis Club in Newfoundland. It is modelled after the Rugby fives courts at Marlborough College in England.
- US Squash, world’s oldest national governing body, is founded in Philadelphia.
- The world’s first professional event, with six entries, is held in Philadelphia.
The first court in South Africa is built at the Country Club Johannesburg.
- First court in New Zealand is built, at the Christchurch Club.
- First U.S. nationals are held in Philadelphia; John Miskey, a local doctor, wins.
- The pro at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, Fred Thompkins, builds world’s first doubles court, inventing the game of squash doubles, now called hardball doubles.
In April the Tennis & Rackets Association (T&RA) meets at Queen’s Club in London, Great Britain and forms a subcommittee to look after squash.
South Africa forms a national governing body.
- RMS Titanic sails from England with a squash court on the F and G decks; the twenty-four year-old pro, Fred Wright, goes down with the ship.
- The first courts in Kenya are built at the Muthaiga Club in Nairobi.
- Squash Canada is formed.
- The first court in Australia appears when the Melbourne Club converts a racquets court into two squash courts.
- The British battlecruiser HMS Renown, built in 1916, is renovated with a squash court on the port side; the Prince of Wales, an avid squash player, sails on the ship to Australia and New Zealand later this year and to India and Japan the following year.
- US Squash standardizes 18 1/2 foot court width.
- The Professional Championship of the British Isles is held in London.
Harvard, in Boston, USA, starts the world’s first university team and hires first coach, Harry Cowles.
- First British Open women’s tournament is held at Queen’s Club in London.
- 17-inch tin standardized for U.S. hardball.
- Bath Club Cup, the London squash league, is started.
- The world’s first annual international match, Lapham Cup (U.S. v. Canada), is started.
- In January the Royal Automobile Club in London hosts a meeting of delegates from English squash clubs; they form a more robust sub-committee under the Tennis & Rackets Association.
- Great Britain hosts its first national championships at Lord’s.
- First intercollegiate match in the world (Harvard v. Yale) is played in New York, USA.
Great Britain sends a touring side to North America, marking the first time a squash team travels overseas.
- First Oxford v. Cambridge varsity match and the first British public schools match are held.
- A group of Boston pros form New England Professional Association, the original ancestor of today’s Professional Squash Association.
- The Drysdale Cup (now the BU19 draw at the British Junior Open) is started at the Royal Automobile Club.
- The T&RA issues official rules for softball squash.
- In January the first courts in France appear when four are opened on a former real tennis court at the Jeu de Paume in the 16th Arrondissement in Paris.
- Women switch from 15-point, point-per-rally scoring at the British Open to 9-point, hand-in, hand-out scoring.
- In December the T&RA’s squash committee in London separates to form the Squash Rackets Association; they standardize the 21-foot wide court and 19-inch tin.
- The women’s British Open goes from a challenge system (with the defending champion waiting until the finals to play) to a regular knockout tournament; the men’s British Open waits until 1948 to follow suit.
- In February the New England Professional Association (now the U.S. Professional Squash Racquets Association) hosts its first pro tournament; now called the Tournament of Champions, it is the world’s oldest annual pro event.
- In December the first British Open draw for men is held.
- Egypt forms a squash association; Egypt’s F.D. Amr Bey wins his first of six British Opens.
- Australia starts its amateur championships.
New Zealand hosts its first nationals in Christchurch with ten men in the draw.
Bruce Court at Lansdowne Club in London opens with room for two hundred spectators; it hosts the British Open seventeen times from 1948 to 1967.
- In February Test squash starts when Scotland plays Ireland.
- Heights Casino in Brooklyn, New York hosts world’s first doubles tournament open to pros (now called the Johnson Doubles)
The Second World War ends. The damage to clubs in London is considerable: Bath Club, the leading club, burned down; Ladies Carlton Club, which had a proper hardball doubles court, was bombed; Thames House Club, with fifteen courts, was commandeered by the storage of files and only three courts were playable after the war. The only countries that continued to play their national championships during the war were Ireland and Sweden.
In September the Squash Rackets Association becomes the first national governing body to have a full-time employee and an office.
Hashim Khan of Pakistan wins the first of seven British Open titles.
India forms a national governing body.
First United States Open is held in New York.
In January squash is televised for the first time, in a local broadcast at U.S. Open in Pittsburgh.
A glass window is added to a court in Hobart, Australia, to enable filming.
- In January England Squash hosts a conference that leads to the formation of International Squash Rackets Federation; Australia, Canada, Egypt, Great Britain, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and the United States send delegates.
- In December, Birkenhead Squash Rackets Club in England unveils a court with a partially glass back wall; the glass panel measures sixteen feet long and five feet high.
- In January the ISRF holds its first official meeting.
- In August the ISRF starts the men’s World Team Championships with five teams playing in Australia.
World’s first entirely transparent back wall is built on a new court at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
- An all-glass back wall, using suspended assembly, is constructed at Abbeydale Park in Sheffield, England at a cost of GB£31,000; the British Open in 1972 is played on this court.
- Squash Player, the British squash magazine, is started.
- Jonah Barrington creates the International Squash Professionals Association, the men’s pro softball tour.
- In April the European Federation hosts the first European Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland.
- The West German Squash Rackets Association is founded.
The British Open, having been closed to only amateur women since 1922, allows professional women to enter tournament; the finals are filmed for television by the BBC.
The first individual World Championships is played in London in February for men in February and in Brisbane in August for women; Geoff Hunt and Heather McKay are the winners.
Heather McKay wins the last of her record sixteen straight British Open titles.
In September six hundred people watch the world’s first portable court tournament, played on a court with a glass back wall erected in the Swedish national tennis centre in Stockholm.
In March the first Women’s World Team Championships are held in Birmingham, England.
- The first Men’s World Junior Championships are held in Sweden.
- Squash formally goes open as the ISRF abolishes distinctions between amateurs and professionals.
- The British Open is played on a portable court for the first time, at the Wembley Conference Centre.
- World’s first transparent side wall is installed on a court in Walton, England.
- In November the World Open, held in Toronto, is played on a portable court with a glass front and back wall.
- The men’s and women’s British Open are hosted together for the first time.
- Bob Callahan at Princeton University in New Jersey, USA starts the world’s oldest annual squash summer camp.
- In November the first four sided portable court event is held at the men’s World Masters in Leicester, England. This featured Perspex, a lighter forerunner to glass.
The Women’s International Squash Players Association splits away from the ISRF; it hosts its first AGM at the Belfast Boat Club in Northern Ireland in April 1984.
- In March the French Open uses a blue floor and white ball.
- In November Mark Talbott beats Jahangir Khan 18-16 in the fifth in the finals of the Boston Open in America’s first portable glass court hardball tournament.
The first Hong Kong Open is won by Philip Kenyon.
In November Jahangir Khan’s five and a half year squash winning streak in pro softball events ends in Toulouse, France when Ross Norman beats him in the finals of the World Open.
In October 3,526 people attend the finals of the Men’s World Team Championships at Royal Albert Hall in London, England.
The game of softball doubles is standardized at the Royal Automobile Club.
Men’s pro squash switches to 15-point, point-per-rally scoring; the British Open doesn’t switch for men until 1995.
Men’s pro squash switches to a 17-inch tin.
The International Squash Rackets Federation changes its name to the World Squash Federation.
In January the pro hardball and pro softball men’s associations merge to create the Professional Squash Association (PSA).
- In March squash is played for first time in the Pan-American Games in Argentina.
- In June the Tournament of Champions is staged in Grand Central Terminal in New York.
- In May the Al-Ahram International is played in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt.
- Greg Zaff starts SquashBusters in Boston, USA, first urban youth enrichment squash and education program.
In October Squash Magazine in America publishes its first issue.
In September squash is played for first time in the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The men’s pro hardball doubles tour splits from the PSA and forms the International Squash Doubles Association.
The Squash Rackets Association becomes England Squash.
In February pro squash is first streamed live on the Internet with the semi-finals of the Tournament of Champions.
The men’s pro tour switches to 11-point, point-per-rally scoring.
The Women’s Squash Doubles Association for hardball is founded.
The women’s pro tour switches to 11-point, point-per-rally scoring.
In March the PSA begins to use a video referee and player appeal system.
The men’s pro hardball doubles tour in North America is reconstituted as the Squash Doubles Association.
- In January the PSA and WSA (formerly WISPA) merge to create a new PSA; it is one of the very few global professional associations that includes both men and women.
- In September, the PSA lowers the pro women’s tin to 17 inches; amateur play still uses a 19-inch tin.
- In September, squash’s bid for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games ends; this follows previous failed bids for London 2012 and Rio 2016.
In October the PSA switches from a three-referee system with a fourth video referee to one referee with one video referee.
Equal prize money for men and women in major PSA events is extended to embrace almost all of the World Series events.