Mills Novelty Co. | Electricity is Life




In response to this interest in electricity as a cure-all, Mills Novelty Co. produced the ‘Electricity Is Life’ machine in order to provide a similarly tingling effect for amusement. These machines usually have a pair of handles that are connected to an induction coil. Attached to the coil is a buzzer that takes DC voltage from a simple 1.5 volt dry cell battery and interrupts that voltage. This creates a primitive form of alternating current and the patron actually feels the stepped up voltage created by the induction coil and buzzer. Some of the volt- ages in these machines are measured by the hundreds of volts, but fortunately with very small amperage. This provides the patron with the desired tingly shock feeling. Ironically, neither the strongest nor the bravest felt the most uncomfortable sensation, but the player with the sweatiest palms.


Mills also made a similar Flat Front version of the machine which lacked the bowed door and some other small cosmetic features. The company later manufactured an ‘Electricity Will Do It’ machine which included a sports theme dial and a center display with a much later Flat Front cabinet. The most common of the machines is the normal Flat Front with about 40-50 examples in existence. The Bow Front is the most desirable, and the ‘Electricity Will Do It’ is the most rare, with only 2-3 examples.


The Bow Front features a beautifully quartered white oak cabinet with decorative decals on both the inside and the outside. The dial is made of a papier-mâché sculpting of four strongmen that decorate the corners. The dial also reads the different score ranges, informing the players of their physical condition. A chipped glass sign tells the patron, ‘Electricity, the silent physician. Treats all forms of muscular ills. Good for the nervous system too.’


Read more in No Tampering! A Guide to Papa's Re-creations.

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