January 2, 2009

Denvers 1894 war on coin gambling machines...

The 1890s saw the introduction of trade stimulators and "nickel-in-the-slot" machines (slot machines). The Rocky Mountain News (April 7, 1894) said of the machines,
"The nickel-in-the-slot machine is not very old, but as a money maker it can give points to faro and roulette and beat them with hands down. If a good machine can get a good play - and most of them do - there is at least $20 in the box every night."
Denver city was going through populist reform whose followers were desperately fighting to rid the town of saloons and gambling halls.


In April it was noted that young boys were playing the machines located in hotels and cigar stores. On April 6, 1894 Leonard De Lue, Chief of county detectives took it upon himself to launch a raid on businesses that possessed machines made for gambling purposes.

Without any warning that the machines were illegal to possess, county officers raided numerous cigar stores and saloons in the business district and netted over 100 machines.

Sheriff Burchinell protests that Chief De Lue stepped out of bounds of city affairs by acting on his own. The proprietors are up in arms because they do not actually own the machines, but rather split the profits with the machine owners. To top it off the detectives confiscated the machines keeping the money inside the machines, which mandated that Chief De Lue had to stand guard over the haul with a drawn revolver to keep thieves at bay.


Proprietors who had their machines taken included the Blonger brothers and William Deutsch, a partner of Soapy Smith. Which means that of the 100 or so machines taken, it is likely one or more of these machines pictured in the drawings belonged to the two biggest crooks in the city. If only we knew where those machine are today.

Having once been a collector of antique gaming machines and equipment I recognized a few of the machines in the drawings. It took a little while to identify them and find modern photographs of like machines but I was pretty successful in that end.

The coin machine in the drawing titled, TAKING IN A SURE THING, appears to be a poor drawing of a Clawson Automatic Dice Machine.

The coin machines in the drawing, RESULTS OF THE RAID, are numerous. On the floor in the foreground, there are 14 of what look to be Caille Winner Dice machines. This is pretty certain as there are no known copy-cat machines made by competing firms.

In back, on pedestals are, a poker machine with 5 playing card reels. This may be a Mills Jumbo Success but there were similar machines copied by other companies. The machine to the left of the Mills is a Farris Wheel. The next one to the left is probably the Clawson Automatic Dice machine. The rest of the counter top machines on the floor are examples of various trade stimulators and payout machines.


The genre were called Jacks machines or pin-drop machines. Carlo was the name of the machine shown in the first row.

The machines depicted in the drawing to the right are by far the most detailed. Below are some photographs of machines in private collections.

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