Pinball is a beloved pastime that’s popular around the world, but behind it is a colorful history you will probably be surprised to hear about. Whether you are picking up pinball as a new hobby or have been a fan forever, there’s a handful of interesting trivia about these fun machines from the old days. New pinball machines for sale are popping up, with all kinds of themes and brand new, exciting features, but there is something about pinball machine rentals—especially classic ones—that is simply intriguing. Here are some things you probably didn’t know about pinball:
There was a Time when Pinball was Illegal
From the early 1940s all the way to the mid 1970s, pinball was banned in many big cities across America, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York—places where the game was essentially born and where many of its makers and manufacturers have been headquartered.
The reason behind such hostility against the game was that pinball was thought to be a game of pure chance and as such, can be considered a form of gambling. Since the flipper wasn’t a part of the game until 1947 when it was invented, pinball involved a lot less skill to play. Up until that year, players had to tilt and bump the machines in order to sway gravity and prevent the ball from dying in the game. Lawmakers during that time also believed pinball to be a mafia-run racket and a huge time and dime waster for the generation’s impressionable youth.
Massive Prohibition-Style Raids were Held to rid Cities of Pinball
The pinball ban took a particularly dramatic direction in New York City, where police forces were ordered to focus on rounding up all pinball machines and arresting owners who violated the ban. Then Mayor Fiorello La Guardia spearheaded these prohibition raids, during which thousands of pinball machines were confiscated, sledge hammered, and then dumped into the Hudson River.
Underground Pinball Halls Provided Refuge for Pinball Machines and Pinball Lovers
Although outlawed in many cities, pinball didn’t disappear entirely—it only went into hiding, behind curtains and seedy shops, particularly in places like Greenwich Village and Harlem. Police raids against illegal pinball operators went on all the way through the 1970s.
World War II Changed Pinball Production
Wartime meant having to switch manufacturing infrastructure over to war efforts and the pinball industry was no exception, especially since pinball machines used lots of copper wiring. This is why during the war, few if any new games were manufactured. Instead, suppliers turned to so-called conversion kits that allowed pinball machine owners and operators to transform their machines’ artwork to a newer and fresher theme. Conversion themes during the time mainly took the form of patriotic and wartime motifs, like the popular “Victory in the Pacific.”
It was made Legal Again in 1976
Only in the mid 1970s was the pinball ban completely overturned. It took an important shot to change the minds of the City Council about pinball being a game of chance. Their strategy was to show and prove to the authorities that pinball was indeed a game of skill (not pure chance) and should not be illegal. To do so, they called in the best pinball player they could find, Roger Sharpe, a 26 year-old magazine editor and a real pinball whiz whose money-making shot caused the City Council to overturn the ban on the game once and for all.
Pinball has a Unique Hollywood Legacy
As there was the long time ban on pinball, the game went on to become a symbol of rebellion, especially among the youth in pop culture. This is why if you watch a movie made, set, or produced shortly following the pinball ban, you might notice characters playing pinball to symbolize freedom.
Pinball remains a well-loved game even now. This is why you will still find new pinball machines for sale in the market. Pinball machine rentals is also a booming industry, especially since many people crave the nostalgia that these games bring.
Want to buy or rent a pinball machine? Joystix Games is a great place to find exciting new pinball games as well as classic machines for sale and rent for your game room or your private event.
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