The Secret History Of Cornhole

Who knows the real history of Cornhole? Let’s settle it here. Ok maybe not. The problem is that there are many different versions of the history of Cornhole. Most of the story tellers of course, all believe they have the real story. I guess the actual history will probably remain a mystery. I’ve laid out the versions that I have come across in my research, and I’ll let you be the judge. If you have your own version, please share it below. We would love to hear any other stories that are out there.

Cincinnati
Cincinnati is the true origin of the game. At least that is what you will hear if you’re at a party in Porkapolis (a nick name for Cincinnati). It may or may not be where the game really started, but there aren’t many that will argue its popularity around town. It is estimated about 1999 that the game really started catching on. It all started on the west side of town. The story goes; from there it has been working its way across the Midwest.

Foothills of Kentucky
Pioneers could have played a version of the game in the foothills of Kentucky. This would fit with the Midwestern popularity as well. There are some that believe that this is where it all started.

Midwestern Farmer
This story gives credit to a Midwestern farmer named Jebediah Magillicutty. It is said that Mr. Magillicutty started the game back in the 1800’s.

German Farmer
Did a German farmer bring the game to this country? There are a number of stories that confirm this version. This falls in line with the Cincinnati story which may give it some additional credibility. Cincinnati is known for its strong German roots. It is very likely that Germany could have been the actual origin, with Cincinnati still taking credit for starting the spread throughout the U.S.

Ancient Civilization
The tribes of ancient civilizations tossed rocks at holes in the ground. This is yet another version of the ancient beginnings of the game. This very well could have be the first time something similar to Cornhole was played. This one however, seems to be a pretty far stretch from the game as we know it today.

49 Responses to The Secret History Of Cornhole

  1. Ted Naegele April 25, 2007 at 9:14 am #

    I am from Cincinnati, so i have to go with that answer. I can say though that I have started the BUZZ in the United Kingdom and have orders for a set of boards as we speak. I only wish i had a sewing machine!

  2. NancyQ June 11, 2007 at 8:28 pm #

    My Dad was playing the game in rural western Kentucky in the 1930s. When I mentioned the word “cornhole”, though, he just about had a conniption. I guess where he comes from, that’s not a word you use in public.

  3. Gary M July 3, 2007 at 8:20 pm #

    i believe the game was invented in cincinnati
    no one has heard of it before

  4. Michele August 2, 2007 at 11:08 pm #

    I have to say its crazy popular in Kentucky right now. There are cornhole tournaments in every bar from Louisville to Paducah. Not sure about
    Eastern Kentucky though, I don’t get that way much. Where ever it started, its a pretty fun game.

  5. JASON August 8, 2007 at 2:41 pm #

    I PLAYED THIS GAME IN GERMAN COMMUNITIES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA IN THE MID 1980′S

  6. tom October 10, 2007 at 3:52 pm #

    I’m sure that the game wasn’t started in one particular area. I’m sure people have been playing it for years, but had a different name for the game. I will say this though, Cincinnati made Cornhole BIG!!! You can’t go anywhere in Cincinnati that you don’t hear people bragging about their awesome Cornhole game. We’ve even brought the game indoors at the bars, so that we can continue to enjoy the game 365 days a year. Every weekend there is a tournament going on somewhere, and for some good prize money too. We even take time out of work to play occasionally. … It really doesn’t matter where the game originated, all that matters is that this excellent game brings everyone together for some fun and drinking, where all that matters is “How’s your game today?”

  7. Chuck June 4, 2008 at 4:56 pm #

    Hey NancyQ,

    What did your dad call it back in the 30′s. I am also having a little difficulty with the name. Anyone else out there using a different name out there?

  8. Beth June 5, 2008 at 1:20 pm #

    My dad can recall playing the game on the west side of Cincinnati in the 60s.

  9. Joe Goff June 15, 2008 at 2:16 am #

    Chuck and NancyQ–YES!! YES!! YES!! This game has been called Hillbilly Horseshoes for decades. Similar to the Washers concept (which originated with spare washers and any old piece of wood you could cut a hole into) country folks enjoyed that you didn’t need stakes, shoes or sandpits. Just some wood scraps and a piece of material to sew around beans, feed, or gravel. Midwest corn-farming states and college fraternities popularized the term “Cornhole” for obvious reasons and created specifications such as 1lb of corn feed. Actually, kidney beans don’t break down as fast as corn feed so if you make your own bags, no one will ever know the difference! “Cornhole” is a much catchier name but we’re all just talkin’ ’bout good ol’ Hillbilly Horseshoes!

  10. Joe Goff June 15, 2008 at 2:24 am #

    If you’ve ever seen the movie Office Space, you’re familiar with Peter’s neighbor Lawrence’s famous line when he thinks Peter’s going to jail, “Watch out for your CORNHOLE, bub.” Let’s face it, the name of the game is here to stay, but I still prefer the less P.C. version, Hillbilly Horseshoes!

  11. Babs July 30, 2008 at 11:02 am #

    In early times, pre-1850′s (due to the invention of perforated toilet paper, but only where it was available and could be afforded), corn cobs were used as toilet paper for your backside, then was dropped down the hole. At a certain time the used corn cobs were then collected, boiled, and reused. They were very popular because the texture of the corn cob was thought to not leave anything behind. During this time your butt hole was then coined as your “corn hole”. This game originated in the Midwest, probably in Ohio as their primary cash crop was corn. The game did spread but due to the lack of refrigerated transportation corn was not widely available. Instead, beans that had been dried and sealed in fabric containers as sustenance for travelers replaced the corn. A new game was born; the bean bag toss.

  12. Jack August 25, 2008 at 1:27 pm #

    In Chicago we just call it “Bags” – some bars here have it in thier outdoor areas but not widespread. When I brought it up recently at an backyard party in Boston, they looked at me like I’m from Mars. You can only imagine how they reacted when I told them some people call it “Cornhole”… they’ve never heard of it, under either name.

  13. Melinda August 30, 2008 at 10:24 pm #

    W0uld be really great if it’s from Cincinnati. I lived there from 1967 to 1989 when we moved to Arizona. My son’s were born in Cincy. We got acquainted with Cornhole back visiting in Ohio both at a high school reunion and at my cousin’s and now are making our own boards and about ready to get Arizona in on the act. My son’s boards sport ASU down the middle and he’s hoping to get them on campus in a week. Let’s bring a good ole’ game to the west!!

  14. Anthony roberts September 7, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    The game was definitely introduced from Ohio I now play the game with us marines that I’m curently serving with

  15. Cornhole Dude October 2, 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    I vote for Cincinnati as the home of cornhole! Was just listening to Bob & Tom on the radio this morning and they were talking about how it started on the West Side, so that’s good enough for me, right? I heard it’s starting to catch on in New Jersey and California too!!!

  16. Lesa October 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm #

    I lived as a child near Seattle it was too rainy to play bean bag toss sometimes, and my mother wouldn’t allow the wood pieces on her hard wood floors so we made the game by using two large coffee cans weighted down with marbles. The idea came from my grandma who was from Oklahoma and Kansas. She said she grew up playing a similar game, but you would have got your mouth washed out with soap if you had used the expression “cornhole.” Also when excited about something she wouldn’t swear but would exclaim, “Mr. Magillicutty!” I always thought this was very funny. Maybe she had heard of this Jebediah Magillicutty.

  17. Eric October 10, 2008 at 10:14 pm #

    Funny story Lesa! The name certainly turns some heads.

  18. Eric October 10, 2008 at 10:40 pm #

    Hey Anthony – Thanks to you and your brothers for protecting our great country!

  19. Basil Reid October 13, 2008 at 10:59 am #

    I am from South Africa and recently learned to play the game in Ohio enjoyed it so much had two sets made and we played our first game with friends this week end. Could possibly be the first ever in SOUTH AFRICA ???

  20. Eric October 14, 2008 at 7:18 am #

    Around the globe…that’s awesome!

  21. Crystal Desi November 7, 2008 at 4:34 pm #

    I live in Tampa, FL and had never heard of this or played it in my life until last month when I went to Key West, FL!

    We played Cornhole at The Millionaire Bar (an outside hole in the wall) for hours and didn’t want to leave. I’m addicted now!

  22. Bob May 22, 2009 at 8:18 pm #

    I played this game as a child in the early sixies just outside of Cincy……
    I know my grandfather played it as a boy, so there is your answer….

  23. mike May 24, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    My dad says it was invented by the Army’s 3rd Infantry fighting the Germans in Italy. There were a few guys from Iowa in the brigade and whenever they would throw a grenade into a German fowhole they would say “it’s like throwing corn into a hole” Then on down time some guys in his unit came up with an early version of the present game just to kill the time.

    If you believe this story, I have some land I can sell you in New Orleans!
    I just played it last night here in Sherwwod Oregon for the first time……. great, clean, simple fun. A game for all ages!

  24. Adam June 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    I live in Louisville and everyone here plays corn-hole. I think it is much more of a P.C. term than HillBilly Horseshoes. I have family from Eastern Ky. and while Hill Billy isn’t a vile name it’s still indicative of the ignorance people have of the area.

    Plus, it’s a bag of “corn” that you try to throw in a “hole”. Seems pretty fitting to me. Just sayin.

  25. Jon June 22, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Funny how everyone that thinks it came from Ohio is…um…FROM OHIO!?!?! My Dad learned this game in the 1940s in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. He learned it from my Grandfather so it was around before the 40s. And they called it Bean Bag Toss. The bags were filled with beans, not corn, hence “bean bag”. Gramps said there is no way it originiated in Cincinnatti. If you believe that, then you’d probably believe that the earth is flat too.

    Also, whoever said that people used to wipe their @$$e$ with corn cobs must have a mild brain condition. Before perforated toilet paper, people simply used a wash cloth to wipe. Then the lady of the house cleaned these rags just like any other laundry. The term “cornhole” has to do with the body’s inability to process corn kernels. After eating corn, you poop corn out of your poop hole, hence, cornhole.

  26. M.M. in GA June 29, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    Trust me …folks did use corn cobs and the shucks too……
    for exactly what the person described above….

  27. Pharoh in Egypt July 20, 2009 at 10:40 pm #

    I played this game before Jesus was born.

  28. Mike in Danville, IL July 21, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    I gotta ask this question. Does anyone get offended by the name of this game? My wife is on a board where one of the members has objected to the use of the name cornhole in an upcoming tourney that is planned. She feels the name is dirty due to the urban slang use of it. Anyone else ever come accross this?

  29. Katie July 31, 2009 at 8:37 am #

    My Uncle has been making these boards and having his wife/kids/mother/grandkids sew bean bags for over 35 years now in Rochester, NY. They also have had tournaments in bars since the 1980′s. We played “bean bags” at every family event, and still do. My cousins even brought the boards and bags to my brothers wedding because it was an outdoor tent reception in the summer. Everyone lined up in their suits and dresses to play “winners”. I can’t imagine that this game originated in only one place and I also can’t imagine that someone would think it started as recently as the 1980′s, it is such a basic idea and so accessible to all. I would have to think variations of this date pretty far back. I am glad that I didn’t grow up calling it “cornhole”, though.

  30. dennis August 27, 2009 at 12:45 am #

    see ive heard the hillbilly golf aka ladder golf called hillbilly horsechoes….never heard cornhole called anything else till now

  31. Cortney October 22, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    My family plays “Bean Bag Toss” here in Pittsburgh with a set my grandfather has had since the 1960s.

  32. Mark October 24, 2009 at 2:35 am #

    I grew up playing this in Pittsburgh too. We had a set that was made in the 70′s. But they certainly had been playing it well before then. I like bag toss, but maybe I’m biased since that’s they name of our website.

  33. Allan Mccarthy April 6, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    actually cornhole was started in philippines, they used actual coconuts.

  34. Joe April 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    I’m from Detroit, as far as I know it originated in my back yard.

  35. Darin Bowman May 29, 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    THE HISTORY OF CORNHOLE

    You are mostly right. Lets make some clarity here and be more specific however. Cornhole originated in the 1970′s in a little township called Delhi which is on the westside of Cincinnati. Being a “westsider” myself, though not from Delhi, I know this to be true from urban legend. What we do know from fact that the first documented corn hole games are from on the west side of Cincinnati.

  36. dogwood May 30, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    Just to be clear – there have been games similar to this forever – called things like “Bean Bag Toss” – THIS IS NOT CORNHOLE – There are also games like “Bean Bag Toss” that I have played sine I was a kid with a tic tac toe board – these games are NOT cornhole – which – started in Cincinnati. I am not even from Cincinnati and I know this..

  37. Frank Magillicutty June 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    My great great great great great great great great great great grandfather played Cornhole with Christopher Columbus aboard the Santa Maria.

  38. Franz Dorsch June 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    I played this back in the sixties when my Father would go up to Bethlehem PA. to visit his Navy buddy.

  39. C.Cleveland August 18, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    I was turned on to this fun game by one of my best friends at work in the last couple of years. I live in TN and I had never heard of it before (33 years old). My friend’s family is from Ohio and huge buckeye fans. They made their own boards and personalized them with the buckeye emblems on each with corresponding colored bags. Although I have been called hillbilly (which I think is funny, not offensive), I’ve never heard of hillbilly horseshoes. I plan on making my own version with Volunteer logos! I digress. I can totally believe that it probably originated in the Ohio area.

  40. earl depp August 30, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    I know that this is perhaps not what you’re looking for but it is interesting none the less.
    I will try to be tactful with a very touchy & sensitive subject (pun intended)
    During the civil war thousands of men out in the field were faced with a paper shortage so to speak. The answer lay in piles ( pun intended) all over the encampment areas.
    The main farm crop was corn and the fields were wide spread also ( pun intended) consequently the default food was CORN cornflour, cornpudding,johnycake,sourmash,etc ,etc fact is a man was lucky to eat much else.
    Corn husks were as plentiful as were uncomfortable men walking around with all that corn fermenting in there belly’s. So off in to the woods they went carrying a cob or two. Now a husk griped firmly and drawn down one side rotated 160 and drawn up the other side makes a very effective cleaning tool but not a very comfortable one and after a few weeks of wiping in this manner a man would developed what was called around camp a case of (you guessed it) That is were the term CORN HOLE was first used.

  41. KyGuy August 30, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    My cousin is married to a lady whose Uncle is the one who is the one who came up with the game concept. He is from Delhi, Cincinnati, OH. After stumbling across this site I called my cousin, and he mentioned that the story is documented in a local Delhi newspaper as to the origin of this game. The way it was transcribed from the article to me, Is that he tried to get a patent on the cornhole game but was refused a patent because his explaination of the game was that the idea had come from when he was a teenager is the 60′s he would play a bean bag that would be played with cans. This game was made popular by UC students playing this game on the campus quad during spring activities! Now the urban legend is that he had been making these boards and bags for years and a nephew of his attending UC in 1999 took a set to pass the time and used it to make friends, supposedly a local pub stopped and inquired about the game and the rest is so called history. This same guy is credited in the same newspaper for creating a game called Bolo Golf, however the way he tells my cousin he didn’t invent anything, he just created the stand in which to through a bolo at and used golf balls as the bolo ends to give the game a backyard feel, but he credits the idea from a visit to Austrailian kids game that similar! Oh and the name cornhole (according to him) was a UC nickname that stuck, the original name was Corn Toss.

  42. Jon September 2, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Check out dictionary.com for it’s description. Not too nice but that’s what cornhole means to most of the younger generation. Never heard of the game up here in Canada, just a bad slang.

  43. joe torok February 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    When I was young, in the early 1960′s my grandfather would construct the boxes out of wood and my grandmother would sew up the bags, and she used beans inside the bags. There for we called it BEAN BAG’S. My grandfather received the patterns for the boxes from his brother who lived in Buffalo NY. They had been playing it in Buffalo for some time prior to that.
    The scoring was different then as well, if you topped a oppopents shot that went into the hole you would receive 6 points 3 of their’s and 3 for you becaused you topped their last shot. We would play to 21 points and you had to win by 2 points or better.

    Erie Pa ( joe )

  44. two cents August 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    bean bag toss (even corn bag toss) sounds way better than cornhole.

    i still think of the pooper when i hear cornhole.

  45. bozo mann August 18, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    When outside of Cincinnati, be sure to call it “Cornhole, Cincinnati Style” or the uninformed may get the wrong impression. “Hey, Mike, want to play some cornhole?” means a whole different thing in other cities.

  46. Heather September 4, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    Hey Roberts!

    My husband Jeff Johnson served with you… hope all is well. We play “cornhole” every week here in Virginia. We made our own set of Hokie boards and are currently custom making boards. ;)

  47. chris October 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    I grew up in Cincinnati but I have a ton of relatives in brookville, Indiana and we played cornhole YEARS before it became very popular here so I’m gonna say brookville before Cincinnati based on life facts

  48. George Lindley October 21, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    I don’t know where this game started, but I do know the person who now holds the patent for the game! We can now sell them “Original Cornhole Boards” and use that as our marketing angle. Took 3 lawyers and $9,000 but worth it since already average that in a given week.

  49. John October 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    George, what is the name of the company that holds the patent?

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