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There seems to have been a weapon called a dart in existence for many hundreds of years as various mostly obscure literary references to the term affirm. However, the existence of a dart is not the same as the existence of the Game of Darts. The first clear references to any game like darts first appear as a nineteenth century parlour game. The first such game was called Puff and Dart which used a blowpipe to fire a dart at the target. It is said that in 1844, during a game of Puff and Dart at a London pub, a player made the unfortunate mistake of sucking rather than blowing. The dart disappeared into his digestive system whereupon the poor chap died a few days later. The other game was Dart and Target which is similar but without the blow-pipe i.e. the darts are thrown. Best guess for date of appearance of this is late 1870s.
Early forms of Darts started to grown in popularity in the 19th Century but it didn't become a serious pub game until the 20th century when it was still known as Dart and Target according to 'Lawful Games on Licensed Premises', 1904. Dart and Target was played on a board of numbered coloured circles, on which doubles and trebles did not feature, the highest score being the bullseye and lowest at the edge. Brewers started to organise leagues from around 1925. . Like other games, Darts suffered from laws prohibiting it in places such as Liverpool and Glasgow.
Although the standard or trebles or "London" board pictured is the primary darts board in use today, many different designs have existed over the years and non-London variants are still around. Still known to be used are the Yorkshire board, the Lancashire or Manchester board, the Staffordshire Board and East End Darts is also still popular being played on a boards with segments scoring multiples of five. The London board's segmented numbering scheme is inherited from the old Yorkshire, Burton, Irish and Lincoln boards which have a similar arrangement. The only picture that exists of any dartboard prior to 1920 is a picture of the weird-looking Grimsby board from around 1890.