Jennings Slot Machines – Jennings and Company Slots Details
The history of the legendary slots manufacturer Jennings & Company can be traced back to the company’s founding in 1906 in Chicago, Illinois. Originally called the Industry Novelty Company, Inc. by its owner, Ode D. Jennings, the firm’s humble beginnings could never have indicated the ultimate success that would eventually come its way. This success was due in part to the dedication of Ode Jenning and also thanks to the significant increase in the number of arcades and casino in the U.S. that took place throughout the twentieth century.
Jennings & Company’s History
When Ode Jennings was thirty years old, he went to work for the Mills Novelty Company, a popular maker of jukeboxes, vending machines and slot games in the early 1900’s that would later become Bell-O-Matic, a well-known slots manufacturer. He got to know the machines especially well during his time managing the company’s Spectatorium penny arcade that served as the company’s contribution to the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904.
Jennings established the Industry Novelty Company as a service that would refurbish old slot machines that had been produced by his former employer. He didn’t stop at simply repairing old machines, however. The industrious new entrepreneur also created and received a U.S. patent for inventing a device that helped the machines to better sort out coins, thereby reducing the number that were unnecessarily rejected for being too small. Another patent followed shortly after for a coin-control system that prevented coins jamming in the machines as often as they previously had.
By the time that Ode Jennings died in 1953, he had been at the helm of his company for 47 years. Shortly after he passed away, his widow established Jennings & Company, which consumed the old Industry Novelty Company Inc. and was then sold a couple of years later to the Hershey Manufacturing Company. In the early part of the 1960’s, Jennings & Company, operating under Hershey Manufacturing, was dominating American arcades and casinos with a forty percent share of the market.
The company was once again sold in the 1960’s, this time to the American Machine and Science Company, which also bought up the descendant of Ode Jenning’s old employer and one of Jennings & Company’s main rivals, Bell-O-Matic. The companies were joined together and slated to be run by two brothers, Tony and John Mills, who renamed the new venture the TJM Corporation. Due to a lack of ability to compete with the newer firms that were using more modern technology, as well as a failure to protect foreign rights, the company floundered and finally went out of business in 1990, ending Jennings & Company’s near one-hundred year run in the industry.
Jennings & Company’s Early Titles
One of the most famous and favored games that was produced by Jennings & Company was the Sportsman, which was technically a pinball game but that offered a payout, making it much more similar to a slot machine than to anything that we would consider a pinball machine today. There was a full line of Sportsman games, with the Sportsman Deluxe of 1937 one of the company’s biggest hits.
Governor Bell and Dutch Boy were some of the earliest true slot machines that the company manufactured and sold. Both were distributed in the 1920’s and these large, metal machines bear little resemblance to modern games, with basic ornamental details and housing a simple three-reel game that’s controlled by a side-arm lever.
In the 1930’s, the business was better established in the slots field and, besides their popular Sportsman lineup, they also put out other well-known titles such as Jackpot Front Vendor, Chief Jackpot Bell and Dixie Belle Bell.
The Duchess Double-Jack Vendor and One Star Chief are also good examples of Jennings & Company’s work during this time period. More color was incorporated into the games’ designs in order to catch the eye faster and keep the attention of the average player for a longer period of time.
By the time the 1940’s rolled around, Ode Jennings had become an old hand at producing top-quality games that the public loved to play. The Challenger slot was a more complicated game than what was normally being introduced at that time. Meanwhile, the display for Silver Chief was a showpiece, with a periscope prize-counter attached. The 1946 Standard Chief, however, was a sleek and shiny model with a futuristic appeal.
Jennings & Company’s Prime Years
The 1950’s and 60’s were unquestionably the heyday of Jennings & Company, when they were putting out some of the most unique and attractive games that players had ever seen. These machines were works of art, designed to appeal to the eye and to tweak the curiosity of as many passing gamblers as possible. The Sweepstake Chief is an early prime example of this period for the company, with vivid colors and architectural details. By the time its sequel, Chiefs, was produced in 1955, the design was incorporating modern graphic techniques into the weighty machines of the past decade. When the company introduced Indiana, a game that was marketed in 1967, their games had evolved to feature a much more modern look, but one that would still serve to draw players from across the room.
The 1970’s and 80’s saw the company producing machines that were fairly standard fair within the industry, a contributing factor to their downfall. Their 400 Series and 700 Series from 1973 and 1980 respectively, were widely regarded to be ho-hum designs in an age when slot machine technology was beginning to offer a plethora of imaginative design options.
When the company officially ended in 1990, it marked the end of an era for those within the slots manufacturing industry. The many firms who market games today owe a debt of gratitude to Ode D. Jennings and his inventive nature, which helped to further the overall development of slot machines immeasurably for almost a full century. With that in mind, the place of Jennings & Company is firmly cemented in the history of slot machine manufacturing.