“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left”*…
The modern claw machine typically stands vertically, lit from the inside with eye-searing brightness, and can tempt passersby with everything from cheap plush toys to Beats headphones or iPods. For 20 or 30 seconds, the user is in charge of operating a motorized trolley with the potential for reward; to see the multi-pronged claw scrape the sides of a stuffed panda, its grip strength too weak to snatch it from its Plexiglas prison, is to know true disappointment.
The components may have changed, but that hypnotic interaction between player and claw has been going on for nearly 100 years. Some amusements historians believe the machines existed as early as the 1890s, mechanical dioramas that were built to entice people fascinated by the machinery used in constructing the Panama Canal.
But the first mass-produced unit didn’t arrive until 1926. That’s when the Erie Digger began inhaling the spare change of players.
“It’s a very complex little machine,” says Roller, who worked in carnivals from 1960 to 1977 and now restores antique diggers for collectors. “It took skill that had to be taught and demonstrated”…
Stroll down the midway at “Dime After Dime: A Gripping History of Claw Machines.”
* Victor Hugo
As we hold out for the toy dinosaur, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956, at the Heidelberg Race Track in Pittsbugh, Pennsylvania, that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended its season early, when President John Ringling North announced that it would no longer exhibit under its own portable tents, but (starting in 1957) would exhibit in permanent venues, sports stadiums and arenas that had the seating already in place.