One of the Most Unique and Unbelievable
Coin Machines Ever Made
|One of the most unique and unbelievable coin operated machines displays the ďLordís Prayer Engraved on a Pinhead.Ē
This coin machine was recently on display at the Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot Machine and Jukebox Show, the largest show of its kind in the United States.
Naturally, I had to try it out. You drop a nickel into the viewer, a light comes on, and there before your eyes you see the Lordís Prayer on a pinhead. Thatís right, 65 words, 254 letters, and 14 punctuation marks all carefully engraved on a pinhead which is forty-seven one-thousandths of an inch in diameter. Every word and letter is spaced perfectly and can be read as though it were written on the page of a book. When created, the work was considered to be the most prodigious feat of engraving ever accomplished.
The engraving was originally done by Charles H. Baker of Spokane, Washington, a highly technical engraver in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It took Mr. Baker three years to engrave the pin.
To his excitement, the pin was featured at the 1915 San Francisco Exposition for six months and was viewed by over 250,000 people at the Expo. It was considered to be one of the most impressive exhibits at the Exposition and was even the subject of one of Ripleyís Believe It or Not newspaper pictorials.
The pin was then placed in a machine in the 1920ís so that the public could have the opportunity of viewing it; originally for a penny and later for a nickel.
It took Mr. Baker three years and six months to complete the engraving and over 3,000 pins were used in creating the masterpiece. The work was done under a microscope with needles that he ground down to a point one twentieth of one thousandth of an inch. You could not see the end of the tool with the naked eye.
In order to complete his work, Mr. Baker moved to the country to avoid noise; he wouldnít even attempt working on the pin when the wind was blowing. He strapped his hands to an iron bar to keep them from shaking and to avoid the rhythm of his pulse. This work did leave its mark on Mr. Baker; the constant strain of working such a tiny surface for three years left him blind and eventually he ended in an insane asylum.
Only Three or Four in ExistenceIn addition to the pinhead with the Lordís Prayer created by Charles H. Baker, there are some reports that another similar engraving was created by Mr. Godfrey Lundberg, who was originally from Westevik, Sweden. He is said to have gone into training before taking on the monumental engraving task. He eliminated tobacco, coffee and like indulgences from his diet. He also had to create a special tool for the engraving. It is said that Mr. Lundberg worked from a barberís chair and strapped his hands to an iron bar to keep them from shaking and to avoid the rhythm of his pulse. He supposedly destroyed over 200 pins to create his engraving. This work caused Mr. Lundberg to lose weight and ultimately he suffered a nervous breakdown after he had finished his work.
There is also evidence that a Mr. Paul Wentz engraved the Lordís Prayer in 1907 on the head of a brass pin. It is said that this pin is in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Lord's Prayer Machine
You may think that a coin operated machine that show the Lordís Prayer on a pinhead is unusual. Well, coin machines that showed or vended unusual items are really quite common. For example, there are vending machines that grind coffee beans and then brew them, squeeze oranges, or deep fry a batch of French fries in front of you. There are vending machines that vend dog tags that are engraved while you watch, or business cards that you design and print while you wait. Other bizarre activities include eggs that are poached on the spot.
At the turn of the century, there were vending machines that dispensed a sheet of toilet paper for a penny. During the 1920ís, there were many machines that dispensed a single cigarette for a penny, an apple for a nickel, or a squirt of lighter fluid for your lighter. My favorites are some of the antique vending machines form the 1930ís. For example, there was an egg vendor that dispensed hardboiled eggs from a machine that looked like a chicken. How about the fruit cake vendor that gave you a slice of cake from a machine that looks like a cake. There was even a coin operated dictionary. You inserted a nickel which would allow you to open the dictionary. You inserted a nickel which would allow you to open the dictionary to any of its pages.
So it appears that if it was useful, needed or something people wanted to see, it was placed in a coin machine. It makes sense, therefore, for something as unique as the Lordís Prayer on a pinhead that everyone would want to see, would be placed inside a coin machine.
|The whole concept of viewing something in a coin operated machine started in the late 1800ís when one of Thomas Edisonís assistants popularized the mutoscope, a coin operated viewing machine that showed a reel of cards mimicking a moving picture when you turned the handle. In order to entice potential viewers to look at many mutoscope shows, they had large marquees with enticing headlines.
The Lordís Prayer machine has a marquee that entices the passerby to insert a coin into the machine to see if there is really a Lordís Prayer on a pinhead. The marquee had the following words:
There is a long tradition in penny arcade parlors to tempt and tease patrons inviting them to spend a penny or nickel so they can look into a peep hole to see something unusual, weird, or sexy.
The Lordís Prayer on a pinhead may sound impossible, but your curiosity is such that youíll probably insert a coin to see if it is true. In this instance, you get to see the real thing.
In the 1930ís, a machine similar in size and shape to the Lordís Prayer machine was one whose marquee had the following words:
What it didnít say is that the nudist colony consisted of a colony of naked ANTS.
The wordplay that is on the Lordís Prayer machine and Nudist Colony machine, of course, is essential to persuade a curious public to part with its money. It is doubtful whether either machine would have enjoyed much success if it had been labeled ďAnt ViewerĒ Or just ďLordís Prayer.Ē For more information on the Nudist Colony machine, visit: http://www.melright.com/bryans/bryother.htm
Why would anyone put a religious subject, such as the Lordís Prayer, in a coin operated machine? The Lordís Prayer is probably the best known prayer in Christianity and is recited by over two billion people. A look at the history of coin machines, however, reveals that religious subjects and coin machines are quite common.
One of the first coin op machines known to man was a Holy Water Dispenser, created by the Greeks in approximately 200 BC. The user dropped a coin in the coin slot and the weight of the coin released a cork for a few seconds so that several drops of water would fall into your hand. Why not Ė money for a blessing, I think Iíve heard of buying blessings from the Church over the years. This type of machine also was used at Egyptian Temples where the faithful received a squirt of holy water after inserting a coin into the machine.
In more recent times, the Lordís Prayer was dispensed from ďSquished PennyĒ machines. After inserting a penny, the penny is rolled flat into an elongated oval and then put through a pair of hardened steel dies which are engraved with a saying or image. These squished penny machines have been around since the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. They still can be found in many tourist locations today. One of the most popular squished pennies is the one with the Lordís Prayer.
Something as unique and rare as a pinhead engraved with the Lords Prayer is probably priceless. As it turns out, however, in early 2009, the Lundberg pin (not in a coin operated machine) was being offered on the Internet. The starting bid was $1.5 million and the Buy-It-Now price was $3.0 million. Thus far, there have been no bids, probably due to the recession that currently grips our economy. The coin operated version is more unique and probably even more valuable.
Mr. Hamby can be found in a booth buying and selling collectibles at the semi-annual Chicagoland Antique Advertising, Slot Machine and Jukebox Show that takes place twice a year in St. Charles Illinois. He usually brings the Lordís Prayer machine to the show to let attendees see this unusual and unique machine.
Unfortunately, it is not or sale, but it is worth a visit to the show just to see this worldís wonder.
Copyright: 2007 Ken Durham
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