The late 1800′s through the early 1900′s saw the birth and spread of amusement parks, penny arcades and nickelodeons. Although this was due in part to an increase in the number of people living in cities and to an increase in disposable income, it was also in large part due to the invention of mass transit. In a bid to increase ridership many railroad, trolley and subway lines built or sponsored amusement parks.
At the amusement parks, along with the carousels, ferris wheels and roller coasters there was the penny arcade and in amongst the penny arcade’s slot machines, strength testers, music machines, scales, gumball machines and electric shockers were the coin-operated spirometers. Coin operated spirometers started off with simple dials and quickly became elaborate amusements unto themselves.
Little Wonder Lung Tester, circa 1890’s. An early arcade spirometer. Date unkown but probably from the 1890’s. (1862 is an auction number). Found on Icollector.com.
Manufactured by the National Spirometer Company, 1890’s. From a listing on Icollector.com.
Caille coin-operated Spirometer Lung Strength Machine, circa 1896. 11″w x 5″d x 18″h. From a listing on Live.VcaAuction.com.
The National Spirometer Co. “Automatic Therapy” Shock & Lung Test Machine c1900. For the nerves, aches & pains. For measuring the capacity of and expanding the lungs. Expensive doctor visits could be avoided by use of a coin-operated treatment machine. A high score on the lung test returns the patron’s coin, works. 12″w x 13″d x 19″h. From a listing on Live.VcAuction.com.
Penny Arcade Spirometer, 1899. Manufactured in 1899 by the National Spirometer Company, New York City, New York. From a listing on LiveAuctioneers.com.
Caille Lung and Grip Tester, 1900. From a listing on PinRepair.com.
Submarine Lung Tester, 1900. The point of this machine is to test your lungs. What you do is put a penny in, Grab the hose and blow until you’ve either passed out or raised all the divers. The divers raise one at a time. Collectors of Penny Arcade machines are not certain this was ever made since no existing examples have ever been found. From an ArcadeTreasures.com listing.
Submarine Lung Tester, recreation. The original version was featured in a circa 1900 arcade machines catalog but none are known to have survived. This floor model machine is a recreation of the original Mills, numbered 6 of 12 made by John Papa. To play, deposit 5¢, blow into the mouth piece and see how many divers you can bring to the surface. Includes keys. Condition (Excellent). Size 31″ x 17″ x 75-1/2″. Found on the ArcadeGuy.com website.
Caillie’s Strong Man Hygienic Lung Tester, 1900. From http://io9.com/forgotten-arcade-games-let-you-shoot-space-men-and-catc-513560652
Balloon Lung Tester, 1904. Made by the Mills Novelty Company in 1904. Photo is from a catalog. Only 3 of these machines are known to still exist. Operated by placing a penny in the slot, then blowing in the hose which caused the balloon to rise until it reached the moon which then lit up and smiled. From the National Jukebox Exchange.
Lung Tester, 1905. Illustration from a Novelty Supply Catalog from around 1905. None are known to still exist. From a PinRepair.com listing.
Tipping Hat Lung Tester, Mills Brothers, 1905. Illustration from a novelty catalog from about 1905. No known examples exist today. From a Pinrepair.com listing.
Lung and grip tester, 1905. Lung tester manufactured by the Mills Novelty Company about 1905. The grip in the middle was a hand strength tester. From an Arcade-museum.com listing.
Lung tester and Shocker, 1911. Found on an AuctionGuy.com listing. Described as: Lung Tester Shocker Arcade Machine. Countertop amusement machine in wood cabinet includes two front handles, a hose on the side for air pressure testing., and two coin slots. Dial is marked The Medina Manufacturing Co. Medina, N.Y. Includes key. Circa 1911. Condition (Excellent). Size 12-1/2″ x 11-1/2″ x 21-1/4″.
Penny Arcade Spirometer 1930’s. Playland Amusement Park, Rye, New York. Probably from the 1930′s. From a webpage on Collections.WestchesterGov.com
Penny Arcade Spirometer, 1930’s. Playland Amusement Park, Rye, New York. Probably from the 1930′s. From a webpage on Collections.WestchesterGov.com
Penny Arcade Spirometer, 1930’s. Playland Amusement Park, Rye, New York. Probably from the 1920′s. From a webpage on Collections.WestchesterGov.com
PFT History by Richard Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.