Badminton has a rich history in the United States. The first badminton club in this country, the Badminton Club of New York, was formed in 1878 and became a weekend meeting place for New York's society leaders. Badminton's popularity boomed in the 1930s as educational institutions, YMCAs, and hundreds of newly formed clubs offered badminton instruction. Also spurring the sport's popularity in the 1930s was the avid play by several Hollywood personalities including James Cagney, Bette Davis, Boris Karloff, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford, and Douglas Fairbanks.
The American Badminton Association was organized in 1936 ( it later changed to USBA in 1978, and then USA Badminton in 1996) when Donald Wilbur, Robert McMillan, and twins Donald and Phillip Richardson, all of Brookline, Massachusetts, decided to unite the nation's various badminton groups. Programs from New York, Massachusetts, Chicago, and the West Coast came together to form one voice and standardized the rules and regulations of the game. The ABA held its first National Championships in 1937, and became a member of the International Badminton Federation (IBF) in 1938 and was world runner-up during this period.
The year 1949 brought the United States its first world champions as David Freeman of Pasadena, California, won men's singles at the prestigious All-England Championships (considered the unofficial world championships until 1977 when World Championships were instituted). Americans Clinton and Patsy Stevens won the All-England mixed doubles title the same year.
The United States' international success continued and between 1949 and 1967, the United States won 23 world individual championships (one men's singles, 12 women's singles, one men's doubles, eight women's doubles, and one mixed doubles) and three women's world team championships. The U.S. men's team was also world runner-up during this period. Sports Illustrated acknowledged the United States' badminton success by featuring top male player Joe Alston on the cover of its March 7, 1955 issue.
The number of U.S. clubs declined slightly in the 1970s; however, high school and collegiate play expanded. This period also saw the introduction of lighter metal rackets, which replaced wooden rackets.