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Meurice & Co./Argyle Automatic Co.

Posted: Tue Aug 17, 2021 11:35 am
by meurice
Hello, I've been researching some family history and it would appear that one of my ancestors (great great grandfather) was John Meurice, who after a career as a magician started making penny machines.

I found this site while googling some of the machines he may have made and was wondering if anyone would be able to tell me more about them? From what I can gather he was running his business as J H Meurice & Co. from Argyle st. in London, and then went into business using the Argyle name, which may have been the Argyle Automatic Co.

I understand he also produced cards for other machines. If anyone has anything of what he produced I'd love so see photos of it. I found some examples in the museum, and found a thread about a potential fake being sold back in 2018, but any more information would be gratefully received.

Apparently he was born John Jones and took the stage name Professor John Luigi Meurice Hiodini while a magician then later in life dropped a few of the names and by the time he was in the penny machine business went by Colonel John H Meurice (the H could be Hiodini, or another family name).

Re: Meurice & Co./Argyle Automatic Co.

Posted: Tue Aug 17, 2021 1:57 pm
by pennymachines
Welcome to the site Meurice!
Unfortunately, as with many of the earliest and smaller manufacturers, there's a dearth of information about the history and output of JK Meurice & Co. The short and intriguing biography you just provided is very welcome therefore. Paul Braithwaite (Arcades & Slot Machines) tells us, the business started in the 1890s, trading from 39 Argyle Square, "On one occasion described as a manufacturer of automatic machines. Current opinion is that the automatics were actually made by W Haydon & Co. and that Meurice & Co. were card specialists." They became The Argyle Automatic Co. from July 1908, the name clearly derived from their street address.

The card vending fortune tellers below were in the Nic Costa collection auctioned by Christies in 2006. In the catalogue, the Hand-of-Fate was attributed to J Meurice & Co., and the Automatic Astrologer to the Argyle Automatic Co.

It seems at least that Mother Shipton was made by Meurice, and it's not hard to believe that an enterprising stage magician could turn his hand to making such things.