Museums

Museum Monday: Games of Chance at SFO Airport

If, by chance, you’ve got some time before or between flights at San Francisco International Airport, you’re in luck.

That’s because the SFO Museum has just kicked off a new exhibition featuring more than sixty examples of early gambling devices, including the first automatic payout, three reel slot machine.

 

 

According to the exhibition notes, at one time San Francisco was a hotbed for these types of games:

In no part of the world did gambling take place so openly and on such a large scale than in San Francisco during the Victorian era. The city’s residents were largely pioneers or one generation removed from those who risked all to relocate and gamble on a new life in the West. San Franciscans wagered in nearly every possible manner, including horse races, sporting contests, card games, wheels-of-fortune, and impromptu barroom arguments on every conceivable subject. At the beginning of the twentieth century, more than 3,000 machines operated freely, enticing customers from busy sidewalks into the saloons and cigar stores that proliferated throughout San Francisco. “

 

 

The devices on display range from very early models that rely on simple clock mechanisms and a payout by the bartender to automatic slot machines with elaborate carved-wood, cast-iron, or painted-aluminum bodies – and each was designed to part a person with a small bit of their money.

 

 

All the objects in this exhibit (and all photos used here) are courtesy of Joe Welch American Antique Museum in San Bruno, California and will be on display at SFO Airport in Terminal 3, Boarding Area F through June 18, 2017.

You can see descriptions of the gambling devices featured here – and photos of others – in the SFO Museum’s online exhibition.  But I bet the exhibition is far more entertaining if you see it in person.

Czech travel posters on display in … Iowa

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43 Czech travel posters are on view (some for the first time) in a new exhibit at the National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The posters are from the collection of George and Nicholas Lowry (father and son owners of the Swann Auction Galleries in New York) who own more than 1000 Czech posters – the largest such collection outside of the Czech Republic.

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Here’s a bit of background from the museum on what makes these images so appealing:

“For a small country, Czechoslovakia produced a large number of posters, owing to a combination of the country’s rich artistic legacy and strong economic climate. The travel posters are a unique form of advertising showcasing the beauty, intrigue, and architecture of the Czech lands, sometimes urging tourists (in German, English or French) to visit such wonders in Czechoslovakia as Brno or Kutna Hora. Other posters extol the sporting opportunities in Czechoslovakia, such as golf or skiing. A few are in Czech, printed to promote internal tourism and travel.”

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Nicho Lowry is a regularly appearing expert on the Antiques Road Show. His dad, George Lowry, was born in Czechoslovakia, and escaped on the eve of World War II and Hitler’s occupation of the country.

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At SFO Museum: spooky, cool Ouija board exhibit

 

The Amazing Answer Board c. 1944 Courtesy Eugene Orlando_Museum of Talking Boards_SFO Museum

The Amazing Answer Board c. 1944 Courtesy Eugene Orlando_Museum of Talking Boards_SFO Museum

It’s Halloween season and a perfect time for the SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport to host an exhibit of Ouija boards and other “talking boards” from the 1890s to the present.

These devices can be dated back to 1886, when news spread of Spiritualists in Ohio using a “talking board” with letters, numbers and a small wooden device, called a planchette, that pointed to the letters. With that set-up, the living could ‘simply’ hold their hands on the planchette and then spirits could move their hands to letters and words and spell out messages. (“Water the plants.” “Bring home milk” “You snore..” are some of the messages I imagine…)

Official “Ouija” boards began being produced in 1890 and a variety of knock-offs were issued with imagery that included Egyptian sphinxes, swamis, fortune tellers and witches.

Here are some images from the exhibition,  The Mysterious Talking Board: Ouija and Beyond, which is on display at San Francisco International Airport through May 7, 2017, post-security in Terminal 2.

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Can’t make it to Terminal 2 at SFO before next May, 2017? Here’s a link to the online version of the exhibition and here are links to an online Museum of Talking Boards and an online Oujia board you can use to communicate with a spirit of your choice.

All images courtesy SFO/ Eugene Orlando/Museum of Talking Boards

Museum Monday: solar system made in Kentucky

kentuck-orrery

While visiting Kentucky last week I spent a few hours with the knowledgeable and very gracious staff at the museum of the Kentucky Historical Center in Frankfort. While there I was pleased to see – and learn about – the orrery pictured above.

An orrery, I learned, is a mechanical model of the solar system. This one was made by Thomas Barlow – a mechanic and inventor who lived in Kentucky – and purchased in 1887 for use at a school in Lexington. It’s unknown how many orreries Barlow (and his son) made in their shop, but today there are only three intact models remaining around the world.

Spooky Tuesday in Kentucky

Greetings from Kentucky!

I’m based in Lexington, Kentucky this week to learn about what it takes to ship valuable racing horses to and from horse country. (Stay tuned for my article about that). And yes, learning a bit about bourbon.

But just 25 miles down the road from Lexington is the city of Frankfort – the capital of Kentucky – and the home of the Kentucky Historical Society and the Thomas Clark Center for Kentucky History, where I had the chance to have a reunion with this doll named Jimmy in the collection.

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I learned about Jimmy when putting together my Hidden Treasures book – about things museums can’t or won’t show you- and was told back then that Jimmy stays locked away most of the time because he’s too creepy looking – even for museum staff members – and because he had been found in parts of the storage area where no one remembered putting him.

Jimmy and some other creepy items from the collection – including cursed furniture and a cast of Daniel Boone’s skull – will be on view October 27 during the museum’s Creepy Kentucky event but just spending a few minutes with the doll is enough for me..

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