At around 1820 improvements were being made to the quality of billiard/snooker tables by Englishman Edwin Kentfield and American industrialist John Thurston who in 1826 began to use slate instead of wood as the bed of the table. This idea caught on fast and by 1840 all manufacturers were using slate as the material of choice for the playing surface.
John Thurston was also responsible for the introduction of rubber cushions which replaced the rather ineffective stuffing of flax or cotton into the snooker table cushions. One of Thurston’s early customers being Queen Victoria who had vulcanised rubber cushions fitted on 15th October 1845 which was included with the snooker table recovering.
When out on my travels pool table recovering, snooker table recovering or carrying out general repairs I come across old Thurston snooker tables, which, in my opinion were some of the finest examples of that period.
Billiard balls at this time were made of wood which made it very difficult in producing a perfect sphere. They also became decayed and lost their shape.
The first advancement was the introduction of ivory at the beginning of the 19th century and was continued to be used in some areas until the 1920s. The real breakthrough, though, was the development of celluloid by John Wesley Hyatt in 1868. This material was used in the manufacture of the first artificial billiard balls which became more popular until these balls became the standard for tournament play in 1926.
Present day snooker tables and pool tables use balls not dissimilar to those first invented by Hyatt and are known as cast resin balls.