One man’s love affair with a Fortune Teller

by Tim LaGanke • Novelty, Ohio, USA • Photos by the author

“IF THE RECENTLY organized Penny Arcade Owners Association would hold their next convention in
Cleveland, it would be a university education for all of them.” That is what the editor of The Automatic Age said in 1931, and there was a good reason for that statement.

In those days there were not many people in the world who recognized the creativity and mechanical ability of a man from Cleveland, Ohio, who built, sold, and operated some of the finest arcade machines ever produced. His name was William Gent and he was known for producing one of best fortune-telling machines ever made, now known as the Cleveland Grandma.

In 1931, visitors to the Cleveland convention of the Coin Machine Operators Association of America had an opportunity to visit the most beautifully situated coin operated- machine factory in existence—the William Gent Manufacturing Company. The factory stood on the bank of a river, into which one could cast a fishing line out the window, taking a couple of hours off from strenuous labor to catch some fish. From such an environment came the clear thinking and the perfect workmanship that produced a number of substantial arcade machines. What a pleasure it must have been to work in those bucolic surroundings.

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