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                                     The Watling Collection

                                                                                Thomas White Burns Watling  1862-1943

Watling's history in the slot business is a little different from most of the manufacturers. For a start, they enter the story very early on. Thomas Watling was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 24th august 1862 but must have soon moved to the USA for he was in a position to found the Watling Manufacturing Co in 1889 at the age of just 27. From the start they were into gambling machines similar to the early Callie and Mills spinning disc style of machines and there is no mention of them making their famous coin-operated weight scales until 1902. (For more on Watling scales visit our "Penny weight scales" section)

Through the '20s and early 30's their slots mirrored those of the other big makers in looks, where they differed from the others at this time was they chose not to keep changing their designs but, with minor changes, based all their machines on the Blue seal design. By the mid-1930s this policy was clearly hurting their sales, in the first few years of this decade they released more new scale designs than slots for the first time and the new "Gold award Vendor" and "Jackpot" machines launched in 1933 had their prices slashed to $75 each a year after their launch in an attempt to increase sales.


                                                            the 1933 jackpot  & (Baby)Gold Vendor

To their credit Watling, still being run by Tom Watling, took steps to fix the problem with a spectacular new design, The Rol-A-Top. This highly ornate machine must have stolen the show in 1935. The machine was preceded by the "Treasury" a very similar machine but lacking the round coin escalator which was to become the Rol-A-Top's outstanding feature. Originally called the "Rol-A-Tor" no one seems to know for sure why it became the "Rol-A-Top" the most likely reason for the change would be the original name made no sense to players were as "Rol-A-Top" at least appeared to relate to the round escalator, another reason put forward is that the original name was simply a mistake. Either way, the name was changed without too much trouble by removing the lower part of the "R" from the casting making it a "P".


The trouble with this machine was a combination of it being a big success and the companies continued reluctance to redesign meant that this machine, all be it in several variants, would remain their flagship machine right up to the end of their slot machine producing days.

On March 3rd 1943 Tom Watling died aged 80 and his four sons, who were to all intents running the business by then, took full control, the eldest, John, became CEO with Bill running the scales division and Walter the slots, Burns Watling handled the admin. In reality, all four were at that time running a munitions factory as the slot industry was already in a slump during WW2 due to the lack of aluminium and customers was closed down altogether by the government in 1942 for the duration and switched to war production. Watling threw themselves wholeheartedly into this becoming one of the smallest companies to win the prestigious  Army and Navy "E" award for war production in June 1943.


After the war, the company switched back to slot production but their designs were looking outdated by this time and the last Rol-A-Top, the checkerboard, was launched in 1947. Only the range of scales continued to be developed after Feb 1947 with the weight and fortune-telling range being the best sellers. The last Watling machine to be released was one of these scales in 1960.

Much of the tooling and spare parts from the slot division was eventually sold to the Bell-Fruit-Co in the UK.

Watling produced over 166 different products over almost 70 years and the Rol-o-top remains a much sort after machine by collectors today.


                                       A selection of Watling Machines 1889- 1960





                       Floor Standing "Big Six"                                              Counter top "Brownie"    



                  Cupid  with Gum strip vendor                    all I know about this strange machine is

                                                                                                           it was made by Watling  



                                           3 Reel Vendor                                             single Reel "Big Six" 

        this machine looks to be an upgrade of         This machine is particularly interesting as it

               the single reel seen on the right             appears to be an attempt to convert their earlier

                                                                                 "spinning Disc" machine into a slot cased version



                                           Blue Seal                                                 Blue Seal Twin Fancy Front

                                                                                                                                                         this machine is owned by one  of our registered members   

   The Gold Seal and one of the tokens it used, the token is not as politically incorrect as it looks at first sight,the Swastika on the token is a Buddhist good luck sign ,The Nazi version has the arms pointing the other way,even so,later versions of the token dropped the Swastika but kept the same basic design



                                                                            The Blue Seal "Baseball"



                                       1926 Lincoln De Lux                                              1910 Operators Bell



                               Blue Seal Confections                                 1933 Baby Gold Award Vendor




                               1934 Treasury                                                   1934 Rol-A-Tor Vendor

              The  lead up to the Rol-0-top



                                            Rol-ATop Cherry countertop and console models   



                    Rol-A-Top "Horn of plenty" or  " Cornucopia " countertop and Vendor models



                                 Rol-A-Top "Bird of Paradise" countertop and Vendor Models 



                                         Close up of Bird of paradise artwork            


                        Rol-A-top "Chekerboard" The last Watling slot to be launched (1947)



                                Early Rol-A-Top Mech                                        Escalator

                                                          Watling   Coin operated Weight Scale         The rather odd Vibratory Doctor, with a third hand?