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Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Thu May 19, 2016 8:37 pm
by john t peterson
Bully good information, Bob! Love those photos too. !!CHEERS!!

J Peterson
Short on bull, long on hat in USA

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Sun May 22, 2016 7:39 pm
by sweetmeats
Seeing the picture posted by Bryans fan has prompted me to post this article which I had meant to do some time ago. I have been collecting information about these wonderful shooters for nearly twenty years but had never seen any image of a "castle" on site until now. Firstly I will reproduce an article I believe came from a book on Crystal Palace. I only have the article cut out from the publication and cannot remember exactly how I came by it! It reads as follows.
Eric Spottiswoode wrote: I became very interested in mechanical things when I was about seven or eight years of age. My step-grandfather, Ernest Matthewson, took me under his wing and I learned a good deal about the cast-iron machinery that he made. He was a mechanical engineer and designed quite a lot of equipment, including the automatic slot-machines which were installed at the Crystal Palace in the nineteen twenties (and also some were installed at the Palace Pier Brighton).

These machines were quite formidable things, really - they were about eight-foot high, I suppose, and it took a couple of men and a trolley to move them. They were beautifully designed, with cast-iron and brass.

One was a machine called "The Big Game". It had like a revolver which you aimed through this glass partition, and inside there were elephants, tigers and lions and small animals in the trees. If you shot all these down you got your money back.
I also found I had this picture, possibly also taken on Palace pier Brighton.

My understanding was that Mermaids were converted "on site" by Matthewson to become either Artillery Duels or Marksmen or Big Game Hunters. The patent of 1912 seems an appropriate date as the soldiers used were Brittains English and French. If made much later, I would have imagined German soldiers might have been used, as on the Marksman. Moving on to after the war to 1946, the following hand written accounts I have copies of are reproduced here. I don't know who wrote these, but assume he was interviewing a member of the Bollands' family. There seem to be two separate accounts as follows.

account 1:-
I can tell you all about those iron shooting machines you have. I sold the last two to Mr ? cannot remember his name, Rotunda Amusements, Folkestone in about 1949. These (about 20 altogether) were made in 1914, by Matthewson. He made 3 different shooting machines. These iron cases were not made for Matthewson but for a different purpose. But Matthewson came along and saw the possibility and purchased these heavy iron cases.

(1) Three or four shooters were of birds and animals on trees. You had 5 shots and you had to shoot the animals and birds down for your own coin return if successful.
(2) German soldiers in various positions and you had to shoot these down. 5 shots, 5 German soldier targets. Own coin return if successful.
(3) This machine was for two players. Two pennies in slot 1 returned two guns and you had to shoot down soldiers on either side.

When we purchased this lot of machines they had been in store in a railway arch for years. Matthewson had died years before and left these machines to his (Son or Nephew?) who operated them in various sites and when the sites or machine went out of order they did not have any mechanics, so they collected and stored them. They did not pay any rent. Years later, someone told me about automatic machines stored in a railway arch in Camberwell. I saw them and traced the owner and bought the lot. Had to have a lot of special gunmetal soldiers made, spare parts and curved glass but we sold the whole lot before we started on them. Wonderful money takers.
Shooting Big Game
Account 2:-
I know all about Matthewson iron shooting machines. I purchased in 1946 the last remains of Matthewsons' machines. I can tell you all about the iron shooting machines. You told me that you purchased two iron shooters from Harrisons of Rotunda Folkestone. Well I am enclosing photos of the very two machines I had rebuilt like new. These were the last two I had. I had about 18 of these. They had been in a store in an old railway arch near Kennington for 28 years and when Mathhewson died, in about 1920, the assets of his estate was left to his Nephew who was not interested in the business.

The machines were in a terrible state. The figures all broken up and the glasses all smashed (children had broken in and smashed them to steal the soldiers). I got to know and, although I did not have the old factory, Gordon Grove and I had them taken to the back of my house in Peckham. I had all new soldiers cast in gunmetal and we made all new striking plates and striking rods for inside the machines. We made all new parts where needed and went to the glass works at Bow East London. Made templates and had all new bent plate glasses made. New instruction plates and had an artist come round and paint all new figures and scenery. We made a top job of these machines. They were all sold before we started work on them for £80 each.

There were three different shooting machines. I had about six Artillery Duel two players, six Shooting Big Games, six Shooting German soldiers - this was the best type. Date. I got my old invoice books out and traced where I sold these machines. Triss Sharp (Speedway Riders Motorcycles). He had two amusement arcades and was so pleased with the money earned that he bought about eight of these machines. This was 1948. Spider Harvey bought all the others, except for the two that I sold to Harrison of Folkestone.

There is no indication of how many mermaids and castles made up the eighteen. Further article "where are they now" to follow.

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Mon May 23, 2016 12:08 pm
by john t peterson
Super job, Sweetmeats. Thanks! !!THUMBSX2!!

J Peterson

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Mon May 23, 2016 4:18 pm
by bryans fan
A very big thanks to Sweetmeats for sharing this story with us. It is vital that this sort of information is put down on paper so there is a permanent record of the history of these great games. We are all getting older! Once things begin to fall from living memory they are lost. There is so little written information remaining these are nuggets of pure gold. Well done for writing such an interesting account **xXx** !
Keep them coming!

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Mon May 23, 2016 8:06 pm
by 13rebel
Well done indeed :D

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Mon May 30, 2016 2:58 pm
by sweetmeats
Where are they now?

We know from my earlier article that there were 18 shooters found in the 1940s and restored by Bolland. The two sold in auction by Showtime and Morphy were both originally found in Canada by an American dealer (I believe in a café). They were sold to a well known collector for a low price as their value was not realised. This was about 7 or 8 years ago. The Morphy two player machine was then sold privately for a rumoured $250,000 before the Showtime auction. I assume these have remained in America, but do not know for sure. Next there were two machines owned by Jasper and were in his study at his mansion near Chicago either side of the fireplace in his study. These were viewable to visitors invited when the Chicago show was on. About ten years ago, I heard that they may be for sale and would I be interested in one (YES!). The price was $50,000 each, then the situation changed to being $100,000 each, then not for sale. They were subsequently sold several years apart to a collector on the West Coast.

Pictures of these, see below:
Scan 3.jpg
The Marksman in Mermaid Case
Scan 4.jpg
Marksman Close Up
The painting is not really to the English taste, but of the highest quality. I have seen one of them personally - the Big Game:
Scan 1.jpg
Shooting Big Game in Mermaid Case
Scan 2.jpg
Shooting Big Game Close Up
The two player game pictured in silver was in the John Gresham collection in Pocklington. This was when I visited about 15 years ago. It was bought I was told for £100!! This is now with the same collector who has the set.
Scan 8.jpg
Artillery Duel in Castle Case
This means that there are five in the States that I know of. The home side are just in the lead with five and a half! Firstly the half: this is a mech. This was the result of the case being smashed as it was considered too heavy to be moved from a basement, and the mech saved for scrap brass. I met the man responsible and have seen the mech.

Next the Marksman mermaid that used to be at Ocean village in Southampton and playable for 10p. This was originally found by Joe Pettit and purchased from a retired operator for £100:
Scan 9.jpg
The Marksman in Mermaid Case

Next there are two machines still with the same family who have owned them over fifty years and refused all offers over the years to sell them (including from me). The Big Game picture posted by Bob is one of them. The two player castle pictures now added:
Scan 6.jpg
Artillery Duel & Shooting Big Game in Castle Cases
Scan 5.jpg
Shooting Big Game in Castle Case
The Christies castle was bought by me in 2000 when the Haskell/Costa collection was sold:
Scan 7.jpg
Artillery Duel in Castle Case

There is one other two player mermaid owned by an English collector. I have seen a photo only. So of the 18, we can account for six two-player games, three Marksmen and only two Big Game. Of these, only three are castles. There are still seven out there to find. Does any one know of any others?

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Mon May 30, 2016 8:02 pm
by bryans fan
Another fascinating post. Great work Sweetmeats -/00\- !SHERLOCK!
Thanks for sharing.

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Tue May 31, 2016 10:59 am
by gameswat
The Marksman shown above now in the USA with gloriously embellished paintwork is in fact truly of the "English taste" - since that's where it was done! The scan comes from the Jan 1978 Vol 2 No 1 issue of the English magazine "Pinball Player & Penny Slot Collector". There was a Christmas Party held by the magazine in Dec 1977 with a Concours d'Elegance. The plaque received for the above Marksman is still attached to the back of the machine! I've also seen the matching Big Game in person and they did look like they came from the same artist. Possibly both owned by Les Hinsley in the 70's? Or else Jasper may have paid one of his artists to match the paintwork if his Big Game came from somewhere else?

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Tue May 31, 2016 1:38 pm
by treefrog
Some of you guys are in another league when it comes to collecting, I would fear having a machine like this kicking around my house, especially when worth way more than the value of my house...

Shame all these machines are not displayed for public consumption, but that is the way it goes I guess..

Re: Automatic Sports Company games

Posted: Tue May 31, 2016 4:05 pm
by sweetmeats
Thanks gameswat for the information on the painting, still think quality of painting is great and as now know done in England even better however will be leaving mine red!