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Remembering Ruth McGinnis, the “Queen of Billiards”

In November 1939, Ruth McGinnis (1911-1974), the Women’s Pocket Billiard Champion of the World (1932-40) played at Frank’s Pool Parlor in Carmel, NY. McGinnis was lefthanded and known to be an expert trick shot artist. 

She started playing billiards at the age of 7 at her father’s billiard parlor in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, where she was discovered by Ralph Greenleaf, professional pool and carom billiards player. By 10, she was acclaimed one of the billiard game’s greatest performers and by 1934, she was named Queen Billiard Player of the World by the World Billiards Association.
For many years, she worked as an exhibition player, hired by Brunswick-Balke Collender Co., today’s Brunswick Corporation, who then manufactured billiard and pool tables among other sporting equipment. She toured for them playing local champions - mostly if not always, men - during the Great Depression to lift the image of the sport and promote opportunities for women to play in the male-dominated sport. 

In 1939, McGinnis came through Putnam County to play at “Frank’s Billiard Parlor”, owned by Frank P. D’Amico, in the pool hall formerly run by local barber, Morey Randazzo in the “Donegan building” (near the intersection of Route 6 and Fair Street, site of today’s Carmel Diner). It is unknown who Putnam County’s local champion was at that time, only photos of her visit and mention in the Courier prove this special exhibition. Perhaps the gentleman in the picture is Frank D’Amico? Willitt Jewell would have known, he took the photo for the Courier (The Jewell Collection, Putnam County Historian's Office & Archives). 

A reporter from The New York Sun once described her as “a snappy-eyed brunette with a boyish stride and a pair of very feminine eyes.” During this interview she stated, “Men never think they’re going to be beaten when they play a woman, and they hate it when they’re beaten.” 

Although she achieved great success, McGinnis always felt her height was a handicap. She measured 5’4”, and blamed her reach a hindrance, “because I can’t throw my legs over the table the way the men do.” 

By 1948, she was the first woman ever to compete for the national pocket billiards championship. 

McGinnis had earned a degree from Stroudsburg Teachers College and following her retirement from billiards, taught at S. A. Douglass School in Philadelphia. 

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Welcome to the Putnam County Historian’s Office and Archives! We are located in Brewster, New York, in the lower Hudson River Valley region.

Our local government office preserves, interprets, and promotes the history of Putnam County. New York’s Town and Village Historians have been serving public history since 1919, in part to document World War I Veterans back into civilian life. 

Putnam County Office Building

40 Gleneida Avenue
Carmel, New York 10512

© 2005 - Putnam County Online

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