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WILLIE MOSCONI PAPERS, 1924-2000
#744

(1 cubic foot: 2 DB, 1 F/O)

by: Cathy Keen, 2002

Biography

Born in Philadelphia in 1913, Willie Mosconi learned his game at the pool hall owned by his father, Joseph Mosconi, a former prizefighter. Initially, Willie's father opposed his son's even coming into the pool hall above which the family lived. The father's preference was that Willie become a dancer and go into Vaudeville. However, after only a little practice accomplished behind his father's back, Willie was soon demonstrating amazing skill at the pool table. Joseph realized that the boy's talent could earn the growing family some money.  Soon, Mosconi was considered a child prodigy, with advertisements posted challenging experienced players to try to beat him at billiards. Even as a child who had to stand on a box to reach the pool table, Mosconi beat experienced players. A match was arranged in 1919 between Willie and Ralph Greenleaf, then the World Champion. Though Greenleaf won the match, the hall was packed, and Willie played well enough to draw considerable attention and launch his career in professional billiards.

After taking a few years hiatus from billiards in the 1930s, Mosconi returned to pool playing in an effort to earn some money. He entered one local tournament after another, and according to his autobiography, Willie's Game,"to be truthful, I don't remember losing any of them." He began making a living at billiards, and he claimed that he never hustled anyone: "I played everyone straight." In 1933, Mosconi participated in the world championship tournament of the Billiard Congress of America, having taken second place in the divisionals. He placed fifth in the world championship tournament, but his career and reputation were taking off. His performance in the tournament brought him to the attention of the president of Brunswick Corporation, and Mosconi joined the staff traveling around the country promoting Brunswick's products. He continued to compete in tournaments and after several near misses, in 1941 won the world championship, a feat that he would repeat fourteen more times. Shortly before that tournament, Mosconi had married his first wife, Ann Harrison, and shortly after it, the first of his three children was born, William Jr., followed soon after by a daughter, Candace. That marriage ended in divorce. After working in the defense industry for a few years, Willie enlisted in the Army in 1944, and after the end of World War II, resumed his affiliation with Brunswick and his successful tournament career. Mosconi remarried in 1953 to Flora Marchini. Their daughter Gloria was born in 1954.

Mosconi continued his tournament work, and during the 1950s won several championships and set several records, including high run (most consecutive balls pocketed without a miss) of 526 in 1954.  Mosconi slowed down his tournament appearances after recovering from a stroke in 1956.  Additionally, he wrote a book on billiards in 1957, Willie Mosconi on Pocket Billiards. He was involved in the making of the 1961 movie The Hustler. It was he who suggested the casting of Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, and he served as an instructor to Paul Newman, who had never played pool. The movie helped to resurrect the faded popularity of the game of billiards. He retired permanently from tournament play in 1966 and during his retirement, he consulted on and appeared in several movies dealing with billiards, made game show appearances, and wrote articles on billiards. Willie Mosconi died in 1993.

Provenance

The archival collection was donated to the Archives Center by Willie Mosconi's widow, Flora Mosconi, on August 23, 2000. At the same time she also donated several artifacts to the Museum's Division of Cultural History, including a cue stick, an ivory cue ball, and trophies.

Scope and content

This collection is divided into four series: Series I: PERSONAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL PAPERS, including identification and business cards, notes, photographs, letters, and two scrapbooks.  Series II: PAPERS RELATING TO MOSCONI'S CAREER, including business papers relating to his affiliation with Brunswick, legal records, papers relating to Mosconi's book, contracts and papers relating to television appearances,  and affidavits attesting to records Mosconi set.  Series III: PRINTED MATERIAL, including magazines in which Mosconi contributed articles, posters advertising upcoming appearances, tournament programs, and miscellany. Series IV: VIDEOS, including testimonial dinners and appearances Mosconi made on the Ed Sullivan show.

Container List:

Box Folder

Series 1: PERSONAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL PAPERS, 1945-1999

1 1 ID and business cards
2 Honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, 1945 (copy)
3 Handwritten notes, folded, from Mosconi's wallet, n.d., relating to billiard strategy
4 Photographs of Mosconi, almost entirely relating to his billiard career, image #2
5 Photomechanical reproductions, various topics, some appear to be publicity shots
3 4 Photograph, 1955
1 6 Letters, miscellaneous, 1960-1993
7 Awards and certificates, 1979-1990
3 1 Certificate from the state of Tennessee, appointing Mosconi "Colonel, Aide de camp, Governor's staff", 1963
1 National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame, certificate of recognition of Willie Mosconi, 1988
3 State of New Jersey, resolution to commend Mosconi, 1979
2 City of New Orleans, two proclamations honoring Mosconi, 1988
1 8 Contents of scrapbook kept by Mrs. Mosconi after Willie's death, 1993 (photocopies)
9 Scrapbook of clippings about Mosconi, 1941-1999 (photocopies)

Series 2: PAPERS RELATING TO MOSCONI'S CAREER, 1946-1994

10 Business papers relating to Mosconi's affiliation with Brunswick, 1946-1967
11 Legal records, 1962-1967
12 Business and legal papers regarding Mosconi's book on billiards, 1959-1966
13 Papers relating to television appearances, (commercials, talk shows, game shows, etc.) 1958-1972
14 Litigation papers involving Brunswick Corp., 1964
15 Affidavits attesting to records set by Mosconi, 1953 and 1954
16 Press kit for the film, The Baltimore Bullet, 1980
17 Papers, mostly photocopies, relating to the production of trading cards featuring Mosconi, includes sample cards, 1994

 

Series 3: PRINTED MATERIAL, 1924-2000

18 Papers relating to the sale of Mosconi-related items, auctions, etc.
19 Bowler's Journal and Billiard Revue, January 1963 - August 1964
20 Bowler's Journal and Billiard Revue, October 1964 - November 1967
21 Miscellaneous printed material: press releases, clipping, magazines, tournament program, 1953-2000
3 6 "11 Year Old Boy Wonder" Poster, ca. 1924
5 Tournament program, 1942
5 Announcement from "The Lambasters", 1969
5 Leroy Neiman drawing of Mosconi, 1975

 

Series 4: VIDEOS, 1950 & 1952; 1991

2 VHS Copy: Willie Mosconi appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, April 23, 1950 and January 6, 1952
VHS Copy: The Valley Hall of Fame Dinner Show, A Tribute to Willie Mosconi and Jimmy Caras, Williamson Restaurant, Horsham, Pennsylvania, August 10, 1991 (2 videocassettes)
Betacam SP Copy: The Valley Hall of Fame Dinner Show, A Tribute to Willie Mosconi and Jimmy Caras, Williamson Restaurant, Horsham, Pennsylvania, August 10, 1991 (2 videocassettes)

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E-mail: archivescenter@si.edu
Revised:  June 5, 2002