Skip to main content

International Gay Bowling Organization records

 Collection — Box: 1-22: [International Gay Bowling Organization records (document boxes, ephemera box, multimedia box)]
Identifier: 2020.igbo

The International Gay Bowling Organization records contain materials from 1980 to 2019, with the bulk of the papers dated between 1981 and 2013. This collection contains organizational papers, tournament, and bowling records and are comprised of correspondence, financial reports, newspaper clippings, printed materials, photographs, negatives, slides, VHS, cassette tape, Hi8 tapes, CDs, DVD, floppy disks, realia, and ephemera.

The International Gay Bowling Organization records have been arranged into three series. This collection is housed in 20 archival document boxes and 2 specialized boxes. Additional scope and content information can be found within the Contents List section of this finding aid.


  • 1980-2022
  • Majority of material found within 1981-2013

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


11.0 Linear Feet (20 document boxes and 2 custom boxes)


The International Gay Bowling Organization records are comprised of organizational, tournament, and collected bowling organization papers. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1981 and 2013.

Historical Note

[adapted from The Strong National Museum of Play online Exhibit, “That’s Just How We Roll: A History of the International Gay Bowling Organization”].

By the late 1970s, cities in the United States and Canada had gay and lesbian bowling clubs. Inspired by an article published in The Advocate on August 9, 1979, about gay sports in America, New York bowler Leo Gender began to promote the idea of inter-city bowling tournaments. Bowlers David Theiss of Milwaukee, Tom Hack of New York, and John Hammett met in Los Angeles and decided to merge their individual city tournaments. Hack suggested they call it the International Gay Bowling Organization (IGBO). With Tom Hack chosen as IGBO’s first board president, the group held its first annual tournament in 1981. Bowlers travelled from 13 different cities to convene—and bowl—in Houston, Texas.

IGBO grew exponentially during its early years. In 1983, 27 cities participated, and the American Bowling Congress acknowledged IGBO’s competitions. The next year, 29 cities sent 44 bowling leagues to Seattle, making IGBO the largest such sport organization in the world.

In 1984, IGBO directors officially implemented a program of activism. New agendas included providing HIV/AIDS information to bowlers, encouraging more women members both locally and nationally, establishing strategies to inspire future organization leaders, and donating tens of thousands of dollars to causes in their home cities.

By 1988, IGBO was losing bowlers to the AIDS epidemic. The next year, teams began listing names and constructing AIDS quilt sections, first shown at the 1990 tournament. By 2005, the quilt was so large it could only be fully exhibited at Milwaukee’s vast Midwest Airlines Center.

Although initially organized for friendship and fun, IGBO gained in stature as it grew in numbers. Its presence, size, and recognition not only played a crucial role building community but also helped promote a wider acceptance of LGBTQIA people everywhere.


Series I: Organizational records, 1980-2015

Series II: IGBO tournaments, 1981-2019

Series III: Collected materials, 1980-2004

Custodial History

The records of the International Gay Bowling Organization were donated to The Strong in a gift of the Out Alliance in January 2021, with the object ID 120.4542. A second lot of materials were donated as a gift of Paul Scheib in August 2023, the object ID 123.2271. This collection will have continual accruals.

Related Materials

Related material includes newsletters produced by the International Gay Bowling Organization, including IGBO Times,

Processed by

Nicole Pease, February 2023
Finding Aid to the International Gay Bowling Organization Records
Nicole Pease
January 2023
Description rules

Revision Statements

  • February 2024: Revised by Stephanie Ball to include second accession lot of 2023; tournament program and materials and the AIDS Quilt Memory Book.

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)