Not Your Father’s Arcade Machines. Your Grandfather’s.

The lower level of the mansion we toured recently is chockablock with antique arcade machines, and I don’t mean Pac-Man. Some are actual penny arcade machines.
Quartoscope. Another brand name lost to time.

According to, “Mills Novelty Co. released 583 different machines in our database under this trade name [Quartoscope], starting in 1896. Other machines made by Mills… during the time period Quartoscope was produced [1896-1930] include Kalamazoo, Klondyke, Owl, Jumbo, Little Duke, Pau-Pau, and Little Pau-Pau.”
Other machines charged a quarter once upon a time, probably later than the penny machines. One in the row below promises you’ll see the Brown Bomber KO Max Schmelling (sic), which was in ’38. Both kinds of machines were trying to demonstrate that you can buy a thrill.
Here’s Al St. John in The Hiebe-Jiebes. Good old Al St. John, Fatty Arbuckle’s nephew and the cowboy sidekick to end all sidekicks.
Looks like a different sort of part here, but then again he did a lot of movies. Or maybe most of them should be called flickers. That hasn’t kept him from being utterly forgotten.

Other machines promise other kinds of entertainment, such as your true horoscope (and it is annoying when you get stuck with a false one).
A kind of machine I’d never heard of before: one that dispenses a penny’s worth of perfume, presumably for refined ladies who want to freshen up their handkerchiefs.
Never seen one of these, either: vertical roulette, looks like. A easy way to lose a lot of quarters and half dollars, which were certainly worth something when this machine was new.
There were also more conventional one-armed bandits. A whole row of ’em.

The orchestrions and similarly complex machines on display in the rest of the mansion are certainly impressive. Awe-inspiring, even. But there’s something intriguing about these arcade machines, too.

While the orchestrions were for wealthy families and posh hotels and prosperous saloons, the arcade machines were entertainment for ordinary people, at a time when entertainment was in shorter supply. Unlike now, when we’re drowning in it. Maybe those pennies and quarters could have been better spent, but sometimes Al St. John in The Hiebe-Jiebes must have been just the thing.

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