1924 to 1946 Erie Digger

Description: Text and picture by J Roller. Erie Diggers were a favorite of the early traveling operators and remained so up to, and even well past, the Johnson Interstate Transportation Act of 1951. Most of the original cabinets were used and abused in years of carnival service, and when the machine parts wore out they were very often crudely hand-crafted by the carnival operators who owned them. Then, Lee Moss and Tommy Wells purchased the remains of the Erie Manufacturing Corp. in 1946 meaning that from that time forward parts were no longer available.

The final destruction of most originals came with a mass re-modification by digger owner/operators following the Johnson Act. Lee Moss lead a small group of digger operators in a lobbying campaign which was successful in changing the classification of Erie Diggers from "Gambling Devices" to "Amusement Devices" in 1953, but they could no longer be coin-operated. The operators who owned Erie diggers were frantic to get back into operation and they immediately began scraping the coin entries, the intricate mechanical coin mechanisms, and ripping-off the cabinet backs. They cut-out parts of the cabinet tops in order to reach into the play area and control the merchandise. Some operators even blocked-off the prize chutes thinking to make the game more 'legit', and some operators whose cabinets were already in sad condition just threw them on the burn pile and built new cabinets of their own design, often in multiples to mount on trailer concessions.

Circa 1931. An original example of the 'first' digger game
that were ever put in production. It is in excellent, un-restored,
un-molested condition. The coin mech is still on one cent,
the locks are original, the hand painted header sign is the
original paint, and a small original test crank is still present,
just as they were delivered from the factory in the 1920's and 1930's.

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