Jennings & Company
Jennings & Company was a leading manufacturer of slot machines in the United States and also manufactured other coin-operated machines, including pinball machines, from 1906 to the 1980s. It was founded by Ode D. Jennings as Industry Novelty Company, Incorporated of Chicago. On the death of its founder in 1953, the company was succeeded by Jennings & Company.
Ode D. Jennings was born in Kentucky on September 6, 1874. Ode D. Jennings worked for the Mills Novelty Company and ran The Spectatorium, a penny arcade, for that company at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri).
In 1906, Ode Jennings established Industry Novelty Company, Incorporated. Its business was the refurbishment of slot machines manufactured by Mills. Ode Jennings acquired United States patent 1,403,933, granted on 17 January 1922, for an improved mechanical coin-selecting device. The improvement related to the ejection of coins that were too small. On November 24, 1925, Ode Jennings was granted, as inventor, United States patent 1,562,771 for an improved mechanical coin-control apparatus. The improved apparatus was said to be more efficient and to prevent subsequent coins jamming the apparatus while the first coin was being accepted.
Between 1935 and 1936, O. D. Jennings & Co. manufactured a payout pinball machine called the Sportsman. The device was a gambling device, more akin to a slot machine than a modern pinball table. Some of the technology in the machine was protected by United States patent 2,003,349, granted to inventor Clifford R. Dumble.
On May 15, 1957 Jennings & Company was merged into Hershey Manufacturing Company of Illinois, a company that had been incorporated on April 27, 1939. Over 80% of the business of Hershey Manufacturing then comprised the manufacture and sale of slot machines through its Jennings division, although it also engaged in governmental subcontract work and the manufacture of vending machines and photoflash equipment.
By the early 1960s, there were five major manufacturers of slot machines in the United States, with Jennings & Company having control of 40% of the market.
During the same period, the early 1960s, the business had been acquired by American Machine and Science Company (AMSC) owned by Wallace Carroll. AMSC also acquired Bell-O-Matic Corporation, and the two companies were merged to form TJM Corporation. TJM Corporation was run by two brothers, Tony Mills and John Mills. The merged company failed to compete successfully with the electro/mechanical models produced by Bally and also suffered because Bell-O-Matic had not protected its intellectual property rights in Japan. The company ceased trading in the 1980s.
Despite their collapse, they still remain one of the most renowned and important slot machines manufactures the world has ever known due to their innovations and reliability.