Produced between 1903

“Who’s Hull?” Back in the late sixties and early seventies, when collectors first started talking to each other about their machines once they got over the idea that anybody they talked to would turn them into the local fuzz, the question kept coming up. It has ever since. It would appear there once was a company named Hull that made floor machines in the early 1900s. But things aren’t always what they appear to be.

The whole idea of a theoretical “Hull Novelty Company” came out of the fact that a number of surviving floor machines had original glass that pro-minently displayed the name “Hull.” The best known examples are the HULL’S CHICAGO, the latter pic-tured. One look tells you that this is an Automatic Machine And Tool Company machine. The cabinet, the castings, the crank coin head and the wheel are all but positive proof that the HULL’S CHICAGO and its compatriots were made in Chicago by the Automatic Machine And Tool Company. One by one the collectors that had the machines came to the same conclusion, particularly after they got a chance to see other machines made by the same manufacturer. One of the machines that surfaced in the middle sev-enties had a big “H” in the center of the glass–the same way John Gabel stuck in a “H” on his LEADER–to provide further similarities to Automatic Machine And Tool Company production.

But still the same question: who’s Hull?

The next assumption that gained favor was the possibility that Hull, whoever he was, was an opera-tor and had his glass made to special order. But that idea came a cropper when it was realized that the machines had shown up all over the country; in Cal-ifornia, the Dakotas, in Wisconsin and apparently one in Ohio. No operator had a territory that big. Then, to top it all off, one example showed up that had HULS (with one “L”) CHICAGO in the glass. Anyone named Hull wouldn’t accept that on a bet. That led to the assumption that the manufacturer was in charge of distribution and not a buyer named Hull.

Not one to back away from a puzzle the likes of this one, the author checked all possible machine makers or dealers in Chicago between 1899 and 1910 (even though John Gabel stopped making slot ma-chines in 1906), and only came up with three. There was a George H. Hull who worked as a machinist on the same block as the Mills Novelty Company in 1900, but not afterward. Then, between 1907 and 1906

1910, a guy named Cramford L. Hull sold stereop-ticons on the south side of Chicago. The best bet is 0. C. went to work for John Gabel, and got a chance to put his name on a machine or two of his own, spelled right or not. But even that’s only an assumption. So . . . who’s Hull?