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Pinball History


Owl   Kings of the Turf


Kings of the Turf

How Many Kings?

It’s funny how research journeys begin. I’m going to “blame” this one on Jay at IPD. I had submitted an article to Jay about the H. C. Evans Company, from an article I had come across in Billboard in the May 11, 1935 issue on page 60. Because the opening sentence starts with “Starting in full production on the Kings of the Turf pinball game this week….” I labeled it an NGA (new game announcement). Jay responded to my submission with an e-mail in which he makes several comments and asks several questions, as he usually does in his quest for accuracy and completeness. A trait I very much admire in our Editor and Chief of IPD. His e-mail is quoted below: (italics are my comments)

“The NGA dated 5/1935 says this is Evans' first game. But we show 2/1935 to be the date of Kings of the Turf. The NGA only references the name Kings of the Turf, not Regular Kings of the Turf. (this a title used in IPD for one of their listings) How do we know which NGA this is for? Maybe you have info on the Kings of the Turf from 2/1935 ?”

So, the search for How Many Kings began. The Pinball Collectors Resource had listings for five Kings of the Turf (listed chronologically below):


















IPD had the following listings for Kings of the Turf:


Kings of the Turf



Payout Machine


Regular Kings of the Turf



Model 22


Improved Kings of the Turf



Model 33 Payout Machine


Light up Kings of the Turf



As an additional resource, I pulled Dick Bueschel’s information from EP2(Encyclopedia of Pinball 2 page 119). He showed the following:

Kings of the Turf

Feb. 1935

Regular Kings of the Turf Model 22

June 1935

Improved Kings of the Turf Model 33

Sept. 1935


Light-Up Kings of the Turf

Oct. 1935

As it turns out NONE of the above sources got everything right!

The next task, that of determining all the information resources we had for any and all of these games came fairly easily. Simply a copy and paste from our web page (A BIG THANKS to Don for making this available!) The results showed the following:

 Kings of the Turf dated 1935-02 contained a list of 23 pictures and references,
 Kings of the Turf Model 33 Improved had; 5
 Kings of the Turf Automatic Payout showed; 4
 Kings of the Turf Light-Up version yielded; 3
 Kings of the Turf Model 22  listed only; 2

I started looking up these resources by viewing the non-primary (Those published after the time of the games introduction in 1935) sources first. I decided to check the listings for books first. Several authors offered information about the “KINGS”.


The earliest publication that includes a reference to the Evans game is the soft bound “Tilt Pinball Machines 1932 – 1958”. This publication is actually a catalog for an art show put on in Canada starting in 1974. The curators for the show were Pat McCarthy, and Wayne Morgan and as such, are generally credited with the publication of this document. Near the end of the catalog, on page 29, they include An Incomplete List of Pinball Machines 1931 – 1958. Included in this list is the entry “Nov. 1935 King of the Turf, Evans”. Not a lot of information, not spelled correctly (missing an “s”) but in those early days, every tidbit helped contribute to the knowledge pool.

Harry McKeown in his book Pinball Portfolio published in 1976 has a picture of an ad for Kings of the Turf on page 19. The source used to obtain the copy of this ad is not included and in addition to the short comment in the pictures caption, there are few additional comments in the text of the book. On page 18, the author includes some brief comments about electricity usage. No verifiable information about the various models or specific dates other than a year. At the conclusion of this research, it was determined this ad is actually for the Model 22 version of the game. Also, note the shadow across the bottom right of this ad. It will identify this ad when it shows up again!

EP2, Dick Bueschel’s invaluable resource is included in most all of the 5 models in our data . Each and every model except for the automatic payout version included a reference to page 119. In the Encyclopedia of Pinball Vol. 2, this page lists all the games produced by H. C. Evans Company. The very one I used as a third reference in compiling a list of models at the beginning of this journey. Dick has other pages with information about the Kings of the Turf. On page 66 of EP2 Dick mentions Kings of the Turf while discussing sports related games introduced in Sept of 1935, and describes how the horse race track was converted and used in Evans Olympic Games. Dick even owned a prototype of the Model 33 payout game; a photo of Dick’s game is included in EP2 on page 74. While this image, and two others are the only other images available for Model 33, they do show some differences, Dick does describe his game as a prototype, and so some differences are to be expected.

And finally, the most recent publication, Terry Cumming’s book Pinball Ad Catalog Volume 2 (July 2002) contains several ads for Kings. These ads provided great insight into the originating dates for the first Kings of the Turf in Feb. of 1935. There is also mention of the later up dated version on page 180. Terry shows a two page ad from May 1935 that pictures the Model 22 in the ad without mention of the model number. The ad states “Now ready for you!” Which in conjunction with the NGA I originally sent to Jay, this seems to pretty much solidify the May 1935 date for the New Improved Model 22.

Periodical Reviews

The next part of this search involves tracking down all the magazine articles referenced in the Pinball Collectors Resource data. I first wanted to see what articles are available that are published after 1935, thus leaving the primary source material for last to help clear up any of the contradictions, misconceptions, and incorrect information published to date. This involved pulling issues of Coin Slot, pinGame Journal, Pinball Trader and Marketplace. As I did with the books, I did these publications in chronological order.

Bill Gersh was a long time participant in the Coin Op Industry. He originated Cash Box a publication that out lived him. After selling Cash Box he began publishing a industry newsletter called Marketplace that was aimed at the coin machine operator. With a gigantic resource of historical information, in addition to publishing current news and opinions with in the industry, he would occasionally add a Pictorial History section to his publication. Covering everything from Counter Top trade stimulators, to Slot Machines and Pinball Machines, the Pictorial History section was photo rich and very popular feature of Marketplace. As part of the Pictorial History of Pinball, (that was published over many issues) Bill provides an image of Evans Model 33 Kings of the Turf. This image appears to be a galley proof produced by Evans at the time this version of the game was introduced. While this is not confirmed in the text printed in the Dec. 1981 – Jan 1982 Part 17 of the Pictorial History of Pinball page 111, Bill does misidentify this game as a one-ball payout game. While the number of balls used is not obvious, the fact that this is the payout version of Kings of the Turf is indisputable. This image is the only picture available to date that shows the playfield and cabinet. This exact image appears in several other locations. This picture is also the image that IPD has/had under the listing for the Feb. 1935 version of Kings of the Turf. This is now an obvious error since it has been determined that the Feb 1935 version is not a pay out machine.

The next reference in the PCR data was for a picture in an article in Pinball Trader from Sept. 1987 page 8. It turns out this reference was listed under Kings of the Turf in error. The article was about Gizmo’s and contained an image “Kings and Queens.” This missed filled picture reference will be re-filed correctly under Kings and Queens.

The next two references are both from Coin Slot Magazine. The first, appeared in the Spring Quarter of 1990 and the second in the Winter Quarter issue from 1992-93. Both of these references are in the Letters to the Editor section where Dick Bueschel responds to questions about this game. In the Spring 1990 issue on page 7, Dick refers to an earlier (I have not found this issue!) mention of Kings of the Turf in the Letters to the Editor and forgoes any lengthy additional comments. He states in this response that Evans produced this game in Nov. of 1935. There is no associated image and not much of a description other than the name of the game and the manufacture. The Winter Quarter 1992-93 on page 3 provides much more information. There is an image of the game sent in by Tim Hutley of the UK. And Dick provides this information: “H. C. Evans made two versions of KINGS OF THE TURF (10/35), one a payout (with a deeper cabinet) and the other a free play version, which you have. They both used the same playfield…”

The Final “current” publication we have in our database is an article from pinGame Journal from Jan./Feb. 1993 page 8. This one page article by Tim Hutley, contains an image of an original ad placed by H. C. Evans in 1935. The source and exact date are not provided. But if you look closely in the lower right part of the image you should recognize the shadow. In the article Tim describes the process he used to repair/restore the game in his possession. The image of the game in the ad is a Model 22 of the Kings of the Turf.

We have reviewed all none primary source publications that we currently are aware, and viewed comments from people who have owned, worked on, seen this machine. Now it is time to review the publications that we have available from 1935, the year the game was manufactured, to see if we can piece together a time line of pictures and dates so that we can clearly show the history and evolution of this game.


The process will be basically the same as before, we will organize the publications in alphabetical order and arrange each of the issues of a publication in chronological order. The publications we know contain information and are possible resources listed with the issues and page number are:

Automatic Age (AAM)
10/1935 Page 027
11/1935 Page 092
12/1935 Page 060
Billboard magazine (BBM)
02/23/1935 on Page 097
03/02/1935 on Page 073
04/06/1935 on Page 073
04/13/1935 on Page 141
04/27/1935 on Page 079
05/11/1935 on Page 060
06/08/1935 on Page 069 (new)
07/13/1935 on Page 070
07/20/1935 on Page 079
08/10/1935 on Page 063 (new) RFBBM19350810063
08/31/1935 on Page 111 (new) RFBBM19350831111
09/14/1935 on Page 074 (new) RFBBM19350914074
Coin Machine Journal (CMJ)
02/1935 on Page 309
03/1935 on Page 018

This list of primary source publications is, I am sure, not complete. I have not reviewed each and every publication from this time period simply because I do not have access to all publications or even all issues of these publications. The same is true for the previously reviewed books and articles, I am sure we have not included some because I simply am not aware of their existence. This is simply a review of published documents of which we are currently aware. While doing the research for this machine, several new information and pictorial references have been discovered. I have indicated these in the above lists by making the text for these entries bold and adding “(new) “ to the listing.

An interesting observation of this material: the AAM dates are all toward the end of the year, BBM seem to cover the middle of the year and CMJ articles appear only in the early months. Perhaps I should review them in reverse alphabetical order!


The Automatic Age page from Oct. of 1935 is a page copied form the original publication many years ago by Jack Atkins. He had made copies of pages starting in the early 1930’s through 1941 making 566 Xerox copied pages of picture ads. These early Xerox pages were then copied again and provided to Russ Jensen who in turn made copies available to several people that were interested. The original dates of publication were not accurately recorded. The original copies were simply numbered 001 to 566. I have attempted to record the actual date and page number whenever original documents became available. Some of the material I own resides on library micro-film. In the early days I attempted to digitally photograph some of these pages from a microfilm reader using a Sony Mavica digital camera that recorded a low-resolution image to a 3 1/4 inch floppy disk, about 20 images per disk. Needless to say, many of these images are not great quality. The Kings of the Turf ad was originally a Jack Atkins copy numbered 349. I have since determined that this ad appeared on page 27 of the original Oct. 1935 publication. This image is scanned from a printout of a Microfilm copy of the original publication. This ad provides several interesting tidbits of information. First, in Oct. of 1935 there existed three versions of the game. This ad narrows the dates of the production of the Payout game and the Lightup game to sometime between May of 1935, the date of the original NGA for the improved version of the original Kings of the Turf, and Oct. of 1935. This ad contains an up dated image of Model 22.

The November 1935 issue also contained an ad placed by the H.. C. Evans Co. for Kings of the Turf. This ad included an image of the of the Payout version. This image appears to be the same image that was published by Bill Gersh in Marketplace, but it seems to be slightly rotated.

By December of 1935 the H. C. Evans Company’s ad in Automatic Age had simply a text entry, in another machines ad, to “Remember Kings of the Turf” In January of 1936 Evans was well displayed at the Coin Machine Expo with two sets of booths each consisting of a two booth spread. But their focus was not on the Kings. They were already moving onto their new game RO-BO-LETTE as evidenced by the running of this ad in the January 1936 issue of Automatic Age on page 284. They even announced a “private premier showing" of their newest game in a Billboard article dated January 18, 1936 on page 81. The article had a date line of Jan. 11. However, the Coin Machine show that year was held Jan. 13 thru 16. This issue of Billboard also contained, in their Amusement Machine Section on page 91, the exact same Ro-Bo-Lette ad that appeared in the Jan issue of Automatic Age. Further, in the Jan 28, 1936 issue of Billboard on page 72 there appeared an article entitled “1936 Convention Exhibitors”. This article listed the Exhibitors alphabeticaly by company name, and included a list of the machines that they displayed in their booth(s) along with the names of the people who manned their booth during the convention. While the items listed as being on display included Kings of the Turf it was certainly not the star item showing in their booth. In fact the “Stars of the Show” were advertised on page 87 of the Jan. 23, 1936 issue of Billboard. So it would seem that Roll-ette had seen more attention from show visitors than their advertised Ro-Bo-Ette. Since Roll-ette was now at the top billing and was photographed and published in the Convention Photos section along with Dick Hood of the Evans Co. So, it seems that the Kings of the Turf died at the 1936 Coin Machine Convention, since no further ads (that we know of to date) have been uncovered.


Billboard magazine contributed considerable information about the last known showing of Kings of the Turf in AAM. With the Billboard publication we find a bit more frequent sampling of what was taking place in the Coin Machine industry. While AAM is a monthly publication, BBM was produced weekly, providing four times the frequency of industry information. While the number of references listed doesn’t mathematically fit the above model of 4 to 1, I don’t own all of the 52 BBM issues published in 1935. In fact I only have 80% or 42 issues for that year. In fact, 16 of those 42 issues, or slightly more than a third, have not been reviewed and entered into our database! So, now turning to BBM and the list of known ads for Kings of the Turf, the earliest ad we have a record of is a teaser ad in the Feb. 23, 1935 issue of Billboard on page 97. There is no image of the game but we should be able to assume that this is for the Original Kings of the Turf due to the date. This would classify as the DFM or Date of First Mention. This type of come on was typical before a Coin Machine Show. Many companies would hold back on the release of a game, and provide teaser ads/articles such as this in an attempt to build suspense and lure operators to their booths at the convention. Notice the left side banner advising the reader to “See them at the Show”.

The next date, 03/02/1935 on Page 073, contains the earliest known image of the playfield in Billboard. I am assuming that this is an image of the game as it appeared at the Coin Machine Convention in Chicago of 1935. A play description play description in this ad describes how the machine selects the winning horse and the odds. This description helps substantiate the function and purpose of the rectangular "counters” on each side of the racetrack. The one on the left seems to identify the “Horse” you need to advance to the winners circle by skillfully placing marbles into the proper holes on the playfield. The one on the right is “Odds to Win” or number of free games that can be achieved if your successful. Only a week later Evans ran an ad, which has several minor changes to the first and earliest playfield image. In the March 9, 1935 issue of Billboard the Evans Co., Kings of the Turf playfield has 4 visible changes from the Mar. 2, ad: Game on the left is March 2, and on the right is March 9.

  • Label on rectangular ‘counters’ at upper left of racetrack “Horse” on the early version and “Horse to Win” on later game image.
  • Running horse decorations between counters above racetrack.
  • Color and "mounting technique" (center) of racetrack.
  • Horses have numbers in front of each horse on March 9th image (1 on outside horse, 2 on next horse toward center etc.)

Perhaps these changes were the result of feedback acquired at the convention?

April 6, 1935, Evans Co. ran an ad for three games in Billboard that includes Kings of the Turf. This ad, on page 73, gave equal space to all three machines. The Kings of the Turf image used in this ad is exactly the same as the image used in the March 9, ad. In both images of the Kings of the Turf, the winning Horse is #1, Odds are exactly the same; 4, and horse positions on racetrack are exactly the same. This same ad was repeated in the April 13 issue and therefore these two ads provide no new information. The next ad found in Billboard placed by the Evans Co, was also for three games. However, Kings of the Turf was given the head line position. In addition the April 27, 1935 issue on page 79 the Evans ad states “Now in production…” and shows the same image of KOTT as was used in the two previous ads, but larger! This provides information that this version (Original V2) of KOTT was produced up to and including late April of 1935.


The article that began this journey appears next. The May 11, 1935 page 64 article, with a date line of May 4, starts with the words “Starting in full production on the Kings of the Turf pinball game this week, H.C. Evans & Company says that the game, in addition to its playing appeal, . . . “ But, wait, how can this be possible? Obviously, the game has been in production for at least three months already. Perhaps, the answer can be found in another ad dated June 22, 1935 on page 74. In this ad the copy states “Ask our jobber to show you the new model Kings of the Turf with its marvelous new features and the beautiful ultra modern cabinet.” (my italics) This would explain the May 4, announcement that they were “starting in full production” of their new model. Based on the advertised price in the June 22 ad, of $43.50 this surly applies to their Model 22, and not their more expensive payout Model 33. The first image of the new Model 22, that I have been able to identify in Billboard to date, appeared in July 13, Billboard on page 70. This image shows several differences from the original game (V2) that was advertised in Feb. The problem now becomes the long span of time between the NGA and the appearance of the game in an ad in July! Even the appearance of a picture less ad suggesting operators to ask their Jobber to show them the “new Model” in late June seems like a long delay. Why would the Evans Company delay advertising a new model for that long of a time period? Perhaps they didn’t! Perhaps I just lack the resources covering that time period to discover when an ad appeared. I am missing the last two issues of May and the first issue of June. Terry, in his invaluable resource Pinball Ad Catalogue Vol. #2, shows an ad depicted on page 180 that shows what is definitely Model 22. So, perhaps since I only own two issues of Billboard from May of 1935, I am simply missing the resource he used. I wrote to Terry inquiring about the date and publication of the two-page ad in his book. He graciously acknowledged that the ad with the image of Model 22 is from the May 18, 1935 issue of Billboard. This would seem to confirm that the NGA is referencing Model 22. And, pretty much nails the date of manufacturer of the Model 22 to be May 1935.


While I will continue to review all the Billboards I own from 1935 looking for H. C. Evans ads and articles, the goal now is to uncover the dates for the Model 33 and the Light Up version of Kings of the Turf.

As previously mentioned above, in the June 22, 1935 issue of Billboard H. C. Evans ran a picture-less an on page 74. While there is no information with regards to which machine Evans is urging operators to take a look at, this ad does NOT say “new models”! For this reason and the fact that in July they are still advertising Model 22, that I am assuming this (Model 22) is the “new model” to which the June 22 ad is referring.

The July 13 issue provides an image of Model 22, with no mention of other models that might be available. From this ad, I assume that we can push the date of the Model 33 up to at least the middle of July. Additionally an ad run on July 20, shows the same model but labels it model E-22. And, there is still no mention of the payout version. The price advertised on this game is still the same as the July 13 ad $43.50. And upon close inspection there doesn’t seem to be any differences in the two game images, they are essentially exactly the same image. For that reason, I think it is safe to assume Model 22 and Model E-22 are the same machine. And, since there is still no mention of Model 33 to date, it can be safely pushed to the end of July. Unfortunately, I am missing the next two issues of Billboard: July 27, and Aug 3.

August seems to be a very slow month for the advertising the Kings game. There are a total of 5 issues of Billboard published in Aug of 1935. They are 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31. There were no ads or articles for the Kings game in the issues for 17 and 24. The Aug. 10, issue has just a single short article with some H. C. Evans distributors praising the game. No mention of models, No clues as to other Evans products. But, the Aug 31 issue sported two very interesting items. One was an article describing the high demand for the Kings game. Interesting, but no information about new models. The other an Open Letter from the H. C. Evans Company that provides several clues to what the future would hold for them. In this open letter they reveal their plans to introduce two new games. Could these be Model 33 and the Light-up version of the Kings of the Turf? They identify two dates, one on Sept 15 and the second on Oct. 1. No clue was offered in the open letter as to what these games might be named. But, they also made another announcement, on Oct 15, they will produce a pin game with out pins! As it turns out this game would be called Stop and Sock. Thus, August provides no concrete evidence for the manufacturing or release of the Model 33 or the Light-Up Model.

The first issue of Billboard for September 1935 was dated the Seventh. It contains no ads or articles about the Evans Company or the Game Kings of the Turf. But, the Sept. 14 issue provides the information not provided in the Open Letter of Aug 31. In this Full Page picture less ad the pinless game is identified at the very bottom of the ad as Stop & Sock. But with the words “Watch For” indicating this game was not ready for delivery. But, more importantly, this is the very first mention of new Evans games. In the ad is the advise to operators “If your jobber does not have these Evans’ games on display write for circulars.” The new games mentioned in this ad are Kings of the Turf 5 ball Automatic Payout Model E 33, Olympic Games, and third game entitled Big Ten. So, we have solid evidence of the date for the Model 33. Sept 14th of 1935 is the DFM and the confirmation of their target date in the Open Letter. But, which of these three games were they referring to in their open letter.

The remaining September issues of Billboard provide no additional information (no ads. no articles) about the Kings of the Turf. The open letter promises an additional game to be announced on Oct. 1. Is this to be the light up version? Did the Evans Company decide to just announce both games scheduled for release over several weeks, in the Open Letter, all at once in the Sept 14 ad? If so, where does the third game come into the picture? What are the DFMs of the other games? Why would they layout, in an Open Letter, a series of release dates and then not follow the schedule of releases? Why schedule an announcement of one new game on the Sept. 15 and then disclose three previously unknown games on Sept. 14.? For most of these questions we may never find answers.

For the last Quarter of 1935 I think it is important to look at the H. C. Evans Company activities as a whole. Seeing when games were introduced perhaps will allow us to see when other games could have been produced. This option needs to be explored since some of the games have not had their dates of introduction discovered. The dates are perhaps published but not yet discovered due to lack of acquired resources.

Acquired resources. This will offer a great segue way into another problem in doing research, that of acquired resources. I started this research article on May 5, 2011. I had completed reviewing all the resources I owned including all the Billboards that I had available around June 15, and was planning to write up the information obtained from the last three months of issues by the end of June. But, additional acquired resources, are very much like stray cats, you never know when they will turn up! Several older issues of Billboards that I previously did not have access to became available on E-bay during this last month. Three of them from 1935! So, additional time has been spent on entering bids, awaiting the auction end, waiting for their arrival, cataloguing their acquisition, and eagerly reviewing their content. YES! One of the issues has a very significant find. A two-page ad by Evans for Kings of the Turf! Now, it is necessary to enter this (and other new data) into our database and then finally into this article! Today is July 3, 2011.

Well, now it is Aug. 15, 2011. A family reunion in Big Sur for the week of July 4th, a week of cleaning up and repacking for 2 weeks of camping in Yosemite, and another week of cleaning and repairing and getting ready for next years trip has consumed a month of time. So, back to the Kings!

The most impressive recent acquisition was in the May 18, 1935 issue of Billboard. It consists of an ad that is two full pages for Kings of the Turf! This ad pretty much confirms that the Ad that started this journey (dated May 11, 1935 on pg. 60 and seems to be an NGA) was actually for Model 22 of the Kings of the Turf pictured in this two page ad that was published in Billboard just one week after the NGA.

The May 25, 1935 issue that followed the May 18 issue contains an article that has the Evans Sales Manager John McMahon stating that this model “has a new electrical automatic ball counter that indicates the number of balls played.” This feature is found in the center of the race track and is definitely a new feature on the Model 22 of Kings of the Turf,

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In the early days of pinball research there were many unknowns and apparent inconsistencies and contradictions. During this time, many “best guesses” were made to account for these conditions and still create a record for the information at hand. Relying on all sources found, some misinformation was proliferated. All of these factors contributed to the Mystery of the Two Owls.

We used all the information that was available to us at the time, and added new resources as they were discovered. At sometime, as we were adding information, we created two entries for the Mills OWL. One dated 1941 and the other 1942, hence TWO OWLS. Information resources were very limited so both primary sources (publications from the time period) as well as secondary sources (any publication, regardless of date, that made reference to the machine in question) were used to add information to a listing.

One of the things that attracted my attention to the Two Owls was the fact that one of the designations for the Dec. 1942 listing was tagged as a conversion of the 1941 OWL. Well, the fact that the War Production Board had outlawed the production of all new amusement devices including Pinball machines in May of 1942 would tend to give credence to this conversion notation, but the fact that Mills had done the conversion just didn’t make sense. Mills had never been involved in any type of conversion operation.

Our data for the Owl has been pretty much unchanged since our first publication in 1979, which also shows two Owls and the second game being a conversion of the first. When the mystery first came to my attention, in early Jan. 2011, our data appeared as follows :

OWL, MNC, 1941-3, 1, Balls per Coin 01OR05, Description of Flippers 0, Description of Manual Ball Feed and Manual Ball Shooter, Description of Scoring Methods by Lights , Description of Cabinet with Wood Rails and Wood Legs 1S, Digital Photo Name OWLM413, Picture in Billboard (Mag.) Date 03/15/1941 on Page 080, Picture in Billboard (Mag.) Date 03/15/1941 on Page 080, Picture in Billboard (Mag.) Date 10/04/1941 on Page 077, Picture in American Premium Guide to Coin Operated Machines (Book) on Page 222, Picture by DONALD MUETING, 6638 EDDINGHILL DR. R.P.V., CA. 90275-3167, Picture in Marketplace (Mag.) Date 06/1977 on Page 213 (Machine view), Picture in Spinning Reels (Mag.) Date 04/1941 on Page 005, Picture in Spinning Reels (Mag.) Date 09/1941 on Page 033

OWL, MNC, 1942-12, 1, Balls per Coin 05-05, Original Cost 75.00, Conversion of OWL, Description of Flippers 0, Description of Manual Ball Feed and Manual Ball Shooter, Description of Scoring Methods by Lights , Description of Cabinet with Wood Rails and Wood Legs 1S, Digital Photo Name OWLM42C, Note FREEPLAY MACHINE, Note LAST BY MANUFACTURER, Picture in An American Premium Guide to Coin Operated Machines (Book) on Page 222, Picture in Billboard (Mag.) Date 12/19/1942 on Page 077, Picture in Jukeboxs & Slot Machines - 3rd Edition (Book) on Page 248, Picture in Jukeboxs & Slot Machines (Book) on Page 223, Picture in RePlay (Mag.) Date 11/1999 on Page 056, Picture by RUSS JENSEN, 1652 EUCLID AVE. CAMARILLO, CA. 93010 (Machine view), Reference in Cash Box (Mag.) Date 01/13/1947 on Page 031

All of the data in our database is encoded, Don has created a database encoding to English translator. The above two paragraphs are the result of decoding our data using our translator. My first thought was to check to see what IPD had on these two games. The two entries IPD had for these games reflect the same information we have in our data. The information on IPD has since been corrected.

One of the most often sited authors in all the sources listed for both the Owl listings is Jerry Ayliffe. He authored three of the publications referenced: An American Premium Guide to Coin Operated Machines dated 1981 had information on the Mills OWL on page 222; An American Premium guide to Jukeboxes and Slot Machines dated 1985 and had a listing for the Mills OWL on page 223; and finally An American Premium guide to Jukeboxes and Slot Machines 3rd edition dated 1991 and had a listing for the Mills OWL on page 248. In each of these publications Mr. Ayliffe provides the date of the machine as 1942. He also indicates that the OWL was “offered in both payout and non payout types.” Mr. Ayliffe provides the same image of the machine in each publication and a price guide that remains the same in the first two publications and varies in the third showing an increase in all prices listed. These three references could have contributed to the confirmation of the 1942 date. The Payout Note was not included in our data.

While trying to determine various features for games all sources were used (no primary source designations were identified until the incorporation of the list of data used for my thesis was incorporated) and then as various items were determined to be incorrect the various features were modified or removed. The payout feature (Click back to retrun.) of the OWL, mentioned by Mr. Ayliffe, was never included in our data. I have checked a list of games Don published in 1977, He had only one OWL being manufactured in 1942 but listed it as a “Free Play” game. With the incorporation of my data just prior to the publishing our first document “Pinball Reference Guide” we show two Owls one in 1941, and one in 1942 with the indication that the 1942 version was the last my manufacture and a conversion of the 1941 Owl..

I decided that the time had come to clear up this mystery. So, I gathered all (well almost all) the resource items listed in our database and began to review what information we had accumulated on the two Owls. I started by sorting all the listings by date to find the earliest mention of the Owl game:

  • Picture in Billboard (Mag.) Date 03/15/1941 on Page 080,
  • Picture in Spinning Reels (Mag.) Date 04/1941 on Page 005,
  • Picture in Spinning Reels (Mag.) Date 09/1941 on Page 033
  • Picture in Billboard (Mag.) Date 10/04/1941 on Page 077,
  • Picture in Billboard (Mag.) Date 12/19/1942 on Page 077,
  • Reference in Cash Box (Mag.) Date 01/13/1947 on Page 031
  • Picture in Marketplace (Mag.) Date 06/1977 on Page 213 (Machine view),
  • Picture in RePlay (Mag.) Date 11/1999 on Page 056,
  • Picture in An American Premium Guide to Coin Operated Machines on Page 222, 1981
  • Picture in An American Premium Guide to Jukeboxs & Slot Machines on Page 223, 1985
  • Picture in An American Premium Guide to Jukeboxs & Slot Machines 3rd ed on Page 248, 1991
  • Picture by DONALD MUETING, 6638 EDDINGHILL DR. R.P.V., CA. 90275-3167
  • Picture by RUSS JENSEN, 1652 EUCLID AVE. CAMARILLO, CA. 93010 (Machine view),

Some of these references are listed on one entry, others on the second listing, and some on both. These have been sorted and organized by date. My intention is to rely mainly on the Primary Source listings and to try and get some factual information about the two models of Owls. The first reference is a picture in Billboard magazine from March 15, 1941 on page 80 (Click back to retrun.). This is image has very little informational text associated with it but, this image does provide the first date this game appears (as of now) in a publication.

In the April of 1941 the Mills publication Spinning Reels (Click back to retrun.) introduced the Owl game. In its rather complete description the article describes the OWL as a five ball Free Play game. Also, the description describes the possibility of a player “to win a good payout. . . ” Perhaps this was the source of Mr. Alliffe’s misunderstanding that the Owl was produced in two models. This article describes how the first ball “is the vital shot for that first ball is the one that turns the reels.” The article goes on to describe how some players might prefer to play just the first ball. Apparently some operators took this description as an invitation to operate The Owl as a one ball (Click back to retrun.) game. Look closely at the label on the bottom right side of the playfield, above the score card. (This photo is part of the Russ Jenson Archives.) While The Owl can be, and was, operated as a one ball game we have not attached the One Ball notation to this game since it was manufactured and sold as a five ball machine. This Spinning Reels article is what we designate as an NGA or New Game Announcement.

In the Spinning Reels magazine published in September of 1941 (Click back to retrun.), the Mills company was still advertising the Owl as a New 5 Ball Novelty game that can have one-ball earnings. This was just three months prior to Pearl Harbor.

Several states were reacting to one ball payout games by outlawing them as gambling devices. Florida was one such state and enacted a ban on these machines much to the chagrin of operators who were able to get a much greater rate of return on their one ball games than they could ever get from their comparable 5 ball machines. A new State law effective Oct. 1, 1941 allowed The Owl to comply with the ban and, as stated by this Miami distributor’s ad (Click back to retrun.), still make one ball profits. This ad appeared in The Billboard Magazine dated Oct. 10, 1941 on page 77. So, at this point The Owl was still described as a NEW 5 ball Freeplay machine.

A short two months later the US was forced into WW2 by the attack on Pearl Harbor. With in a short period of time the War Production Board had implemented a production ban on all gambling devices and many amusement machines so that the manufacturing capabilities of these companies could be used toward the production of war materials. Bill Gerish in a June 1977 issue of Marketplace reproduced a Mills flyer (Click back to retrun.) from the 1941 – 1942 time period. While the exact date of this flyer can not be determined, it provides insight into the time period. No new games were being produced. This was the last chance to buy any NEW machines until the end of War. Mills was offering NEW OWLS (Still a machine that was advertised as a free play table!) at a limit of 5 per customer. This was not a conversion, but the same new game that appeared first in a photograph in Billboard Magazine dated March 15, 1941.

The final key to the puzzle is from a Dec. 19, 1942 Billboard (Click back to retrun.). This ad could have been responsible for the 1942 date assigned to the “second” OWL. It could also be the reason that the conversion note was attached to this listing. Any machine that was being “manufactured” this long after the War Production Board ban must have been a conversion. This ad even described the game as being “Mills NEW Owl table.” The truth is, this ad apparently, was placed in an attempt to clear out old inventory and the term New was used to provide an incentive to operators since the only NEW games available were revamps due to the BAN on production of New games. These machines were “taken from our final production.” Not a conversion and not a revamp. Still advertised as a 5 ball Free Play Table as it was in April 1941. It was never manufactured as a one ball, and now reduced to $75.

So mystery solved! There never was a 1942 conversion Owl. Just One Owl manufactured starting in April 1941 as 5 Ball Free Play machine. And the leftovers being offered as New in Dec. of 1942.

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