The History of Cornhole
Expert Advice

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Genesis 2:2 NIV

Since the seventh day happened to be Saturday, I don’t imagine it too far-fetched for our good Lord to have also enjoyed a cold one and a game of cornhole while waiting for the college football games to start. Had Genesis gone into a bit more detail, the chapter of cornhole’s history may have been an easier sell. However, as it stands, the origin of the game of cornhole is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Possibly one best suited for four teenage sleuths and their dog to unravel, until now.

Many theories, ranging from roots in Germany, to Native American settlements, to somewhere in the Midwest such as Ohio or Kentucky, filter through the cornhole community ranks. Each offer just enough truth for a solid defense, but each contains a touch of the ridiculous that can be easily debunked.

The one farce I found most fantastic was about a Bavarian cabinet maker by the name of Matthias Kuepermann, who, in 1325, grew inspiration for the game by watching boys throw stones in a hole. Unfortunately, as the story goes, for good ol’ Herr Kuepermann, the Corn Laws of Britain, enacted in the 15th century, stifled corn trade and in turn the game.

What really sends the story over the edge is the claim that the board making for cornhole was so rapid, that it led to an unnatural deforestation of Bavaria. Even though the authors wrote the tall tale in jest, elements of the story still filter through the web, as cornhole sites copy tidbits of the story in explaining the history of the game.

Two other gentlemen find their way into cornhole folklore. One is an Irish lad by the name of Jebediah McGillicuddy, not to be confused with Jebediah Springfield, founder of the Simpson’s Springfield. The other legend went by William Charles Hosatch, a name better suited for the game of golf. The theories are nothing more than story telling. Though, somewhere at some time, the stars aligned for one man, and he gave unto us the game of cornhole. I call him a genius.

The Genius Farmer

While there is no definite history on the precise moment in time when a genius farmer pitched the first bag, there are subtle clues that do narrow time and place. These clues are presented in the very nature that cornhole manifests itself, with its traditions, materials and its rules or standards. These qualities define cornhole as a unique game, worthy of a unique history, rather than pawning off the origin on some primitive people that threw something into something else. The game of cornhole deserves a genius farmer, in which, to root its traditions.

The Corntry of Origin

Cornhole achieves its name, in large part, to the material used to stuff a traditional bag, corn kernels. This material choice makes cornhole unique. Footballs and basketballs are filled with air, and golf balls and baseballs with rubber. The material choices each game chooses aligns with the athletic feat trying to be accomplished. It just so happens that crushed corn kernels, create the right weight, feel and flight to throw at a wooden board. The game of cornhole and corn go together like macaroni and cheese. This relationship is crucial when assigning origin for the game of cornhole.

Corn, in the eyes of Americans, and our friendly northern neighbor, Canada, is actually what the rest of the world calls maize. Outside our borders, corn is known as a type of grain crop, which can include maize, but is primarily referring to wheat and barley. When it comes to maize, no one touches the United States of America, where we produce nearly 335 ton a year.

By comparison, Germany produces less than 1% of that total. Maize, or American corn, is a specialized American crop. We invest so much innovation in how we produce this crop that today, American corn touches every grocery aisle in some ingredient form or another. Furthermore, the presence of corn can be seen in animal feed and even ethanol gasoline. American corn is our baby that we have raised, altered and proudly introduced to the global marketplace. In other simplified words, America owns all things American corn. This includes the throwing bag for cornhole, wrongly called a beanbag, more accurately called a kernel bag.

Whether you peel away the husk to an ear of American corn, or the fabric from a traditional throwing bag, you will find the same thing, the kernel. No other corn type, only maize, produces the kernel. A handful collection of these tiny natural pellets makes up the very guts of the game cornhole. Some of the kernels are completely or partially crushed, but whole kernels still find a way to survive.

Squeezing a Cornhole bag just right, one can feel the kernel outline and dimple. Cornhole bags were not filled with European corn, wheat, and barley, they were filled with American corn kernels, and from these tiny wonders cornhole received half its name. Because maize has been globally recognized as a true American crop, then the kernel by attached association bleeds red, white, and blue, and so this leaves no doubt that the first time a bag was filled with kernels, it was done so in America. Cornhole, in its material pursuits, owes a key ingredient of its origin to the American kernel.

Tailgater Magazine