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HISTORY OF THE
MILLS NOVELTY COMPANY

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THE BIRTH OF THE MILLS NOVELTY COMPANY

We all know of the Mills Novelty Company as the "giant" of the coin machine business. But, the story of Mills is truly an American success story of a small entrepreneur who made it against all the odds. Here is an excerpt from the "Story of Mills" published by the company in 1949.

"In 1889, the late Herbert Stephen Mills founded the great coin machine company whose name 'Mills' is famous the world over for its Bell and amusement type coin machines.

In a small workshop, 20 x 60 feet, at Jefferson and Lake Streets, Chicago, with only two employees, Mr. Mills started the manufacture of the first counter machine called the 'Klondike' and later that same year he conceived the idea and started the manufacture of the famous 'Owl Lifter', which was the forerunner of all the arcade type machines which Mr. Mills was to make in the following years for operators of the era.

Two years later, Mr. Mills and his growing staff, five employees in all, moved to larger quarters, 75 x 125 feet, at Clinton and Quincy Streets. Three years later a business setback caused them to return to the Jefferson and Lake Streets factory. There disaster struck again. A night fire destroyed the entire factory, including blueprints and engineering plans of many future machines, plus a great deal of prefabricated work on Klondikes and Owls.

Not to be daunted, Mr. Mills then moved to a small plant at Randolph and Desplaines Streets, the scene of the famous Haymarket Riot. Here many successful arcade machines ere manufactured and sold. The growing organization known as Mills Novelty Company then moved to a considerably larger plant at Green Street and Jackson Boulevard. It was a four story building, and it was in this building the Mills organization made rapid strides toward world wide notice.

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THE DIVERSIFICATION OF THE MILLS NOVELTY CO.

After a rough beginning, the Mills Novelty Company prospered, but like any big company, Mills soon diversified into other fields. Here is an excerpt from the Story of Mills published by the company in 1949.

"As the company grew, it began to reach out into other fields, and it was again found necessary to find larger quarters, so in 1926 they moved to their present quarters, a beautiful, modern plant, 375,000 square feet, offering the best facilities possible for coin machine manufacturers.

The manufacturer of an Ice Cream Freezer and Hardening Equipment for the merchant to make his own ice cream in his location was one of the ventures. Then came a venture into the beverage vending field, and Mills took the lead in the manufacture of coin operated vendors for Coca-Cola in bottles and cups.

The ice cream and beverage vending equipment needed condensing units capable of doing a superior refrigeration job under a very strict type of application. Mills was not satisfied with the products on the market and so started to make its own condensing units, primarily o service its manufactured products, the Freezer and Beverage Dispenser.

For several years Mills successfully manufactured some of the finest automatic playing phonographs, and many Empress and Throne of Music phonographs are operating with great success.

The manufacturing changes in the company made it necessary for the Mills organization to more fully cover the field with a new name. The new title was selected and the famous name, 'Mills Novelty Company' was filed away and Mills Industries, Incorporated brought forth.

During the war years the Mills organization, with equal versatility and spirit, accepted many national defense assignments.

On April 1, 1946, the Bell-O-Matic Corporation came into existence. The entire personnel of the Coin Machine Department of Mills Industries were banded together and they formed the Bell-O-Matic Corp. Bell-O-Matic Corp's position in the coin machine field is that of being the World's Exclusive Distributor of all Bells and related products manufactured by Mills Industries, Inc.

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Copyright: 2009 Ken Durham, GameRoomAntiques


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Ken Durham
GameRoomAntiques
3000 Galloway Ridge, C-306
Pittsboro NC 27312
For Orders Only: 202-213-1585 (10am - 9pm East Coast Time)
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