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Bolo, 1936

Features: 2 balls for 5 cents. Scoring bumpers (10). The bowling gutters are actually long outholes, and the manufacturer promoted them to operators as "the biggest outs ever placed on any game", saying that players liked them because it added to the thrill of the game. Convertible to 5-ball play by adding three more balls and changing the score card. The manufacturer flyer states that up to five people could play at the same time. Advertised as 42 inches long by 22 inches wide. Battery-powered.
Manufacturer: Pacent Novelty Manufacturing Company, of Utica, New York, USA (1936-1937)
Date of Manufacture: July, 1936
Players: July, 1936 / 5
Year: 1936
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Theme: Sports - Bowling
Design by: Raymond Kay
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Machine Type: Electro-mechanical (EM) 
Notes: This may be the first pinball machine designed with bumpers. Each bowling pin bumper has a long, thin rod attached and is mounted via a coil spring so that movement in any direction may be achieved. The Bolo bumper was developed by W. VonStoeser and was a prototype of the passive bumper found on pinball machines that followed. According to Dick Bueschel's Encyclopedia of Pinball Vol 2 , production of this game initially was jobbed out to suppliers all around Utica, New York, who not only made the components but assembled the games. These first games were non-payout and were introduced in Billboard magazine in July 1936. In September, Pacent leased a new, larger location and began making the games themselves under one roof. In December 1936, they began making Payout and Ticket versions. Demand for these games was so great that production could not keep up, and backorders grew. We speculate that J.H. Keeney & Company may have noticed the demand as their reason for coming out in January 1937 with Keeney's 1937 'Ten Strike', a game that, like Bolo, used bowling pins for bumpers. Bally President Ray Maloney, who had been looking for the next great idea, seized the opportunity and swiped the bumper concept from Bolo, improved it, patented the improvement, and began making Bally's 1936 'Bumper'. In a 1985 telephone interview, it was former New York operator Johnny Belotta who told Bueschel that Maloney swiped the bumper idea from Bolo and that nothing about it was published in the media at the time. The demand shifted to Bally's game from all directions at the same time that interest in Bolo had waned. Pacent filed for bankruptcy by mid-1937. In 1960, inventor and pinball designer Harry Mabs contacted Cash Box magazine to state that it was he who invented the bumper, in 1934, on a game he identified as "Washington", on location in 1934 in Miami, Florida. He states he sold that game to Ray Maloney who, Mabs said, in turn made Bumper. We have included the magazine editorial where his comments appear. In it, he does not mention who manufactured his game and we infer a small quantity was made, local to the Miami area. Other than this editorial, we have found no information on a game called "Washington" to confirm that his invention was in fact a device that interacted with a round pinball and not, say, a coin (such as a coin pusher machine), or if the game was indeed a pinball machine and not an arcade game. Although we are hesitant to imagine from Mabs' comments that he could be inexact in what he conveys, we note that Mabs has also said he made the first game with flippers, which we know is a true statement only if conditions are applied to it. Mabs does not say when he sold his 1934 game to Maloney, and we do not know if Belotta, an operator in upstate New York, would have had knowledge about a game in Miami. Perhaps this Bolo game of July 1936 was not Maloney's sole inspiration for his December 1936 game, Bumper, but certainly a catalyst. The photographs in this listing are of a game that is neither the payout or ticket version.
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