Proposal and Bibliography


Today Pinball is a small part of the Video Game Arcade scene, but there is no doubt that it is a major contributor to modern day gaming culture. Although it has been pushed to the sidelines, it is still considered a collectors item for those who feel nostalgic and can appreciate its history. Pinball often appears within other video games as mini-games. There are several antecedents to the pinball machine. For example, Croquet can considered to be the grandparent to the Pinball Machine. As an outdoor game, Croquet was adapted to be played indoors and the result was a combination of pin table and billiards [1]. The indoor-Croquet adaption was called Bagatelle. Pinball emerged from Bagatelle when a spring was added to mechanize the shooter. Montague Redgrave, an immigrant from Britain, settled in Ohio where he added the steel spring to Bagatelle [2]. Redgrave was given U.S Patent #115,357 on May 30, 1871. [3] In 1947, flippers were added, continuing the transition from Bagatelle to the Modern-day Pinball Machine [4]. Tabletop games similar to Bagatelle were popular around the same time Pinball began to gain popularity and it is entirely possible that one of the various other types of Tabletop games could have become an alternative to the Modern-day Pinball Machine [5].

Pinball has interacted with American society in a variety of ways. During the middle of the twentieth century, Pinball was banned in several cities because it was considered a form of gambling [6]. Eventually the ban was lifted and Pinball was fully embraced by the Arcade scene, becoming one of the many games people can play. Arcades were a very popular space for teenagers to hang out in during the twentieth century. As the gaming culture shifted from Arcades to Videogames at home, Pinball has shifted as well. It has been incorporated into many video games as mini-games. Despite this shift, Pinball has remained a very iconic image in popular culture today, demonstrating its lasting impression.

Our blog will be a multimedia website that informs the viewer about the history of the Pinball Machine. We will have various pages, each dedicated to a different portion of our project. There will be a page, and several sub-pages, where we explain how the Pinball Machine emerged from its antecedents. There will also be a page focused on the creation of the Pinball Machine, which will display Montague Redgrave’s Patent from 1871. Several other pages will explore the Pinball Machine’s interaction with American society. We plan to include various advertisements for Pinball Machines from throughout the decades since its creation. Ideally, we would like to add some background sound that would remind the viewer of an Arcade. There will be a page with our comprehensive bibliography, which will be split up into Primary and Secondary Sources. Citations at the bottom of each page will be included, as well as proper endnote citations where needed.

For our documentary, we would aim to create a mockumentary that entertains, but also informs our audience about the Pinball Machine in America. To create our documentary, we would use iMovie for our primary editing software. We plan to take a trip to Funland in Central Park to check out the Arcade and the Pinball machine they have mentioned on their website. There is also the potential trip to the Roanoke Pinball Museum. They have several educational opportunities that we may be able to take advantage of in order to learn even more about Pinball Machines. We would also like to include old video games that included Pinball mini-games to demonstrate how the game pinball has been incorporated into the digital age.    

We chose the Pinball Machine because we consider it to be one of precursors to modern video gaming culture. Pinball has persisted to exist even as the gaming culture has changed over the years. Pinball’s continued existence contributes to one of the reasons we chose it. The way Pinball has adapted to meet the gaming culture of the time is very interesting. We also selected the Pinball Machine because once we learned that it once was banned in various states because it was considered gambling, we were intrigued and wanted to learn more. Ultimately, we feel that the Pinball Machine is a fun topic and we are excited to learn more about it and share our project with the class.  


[1] Rick Sherin, “A Mere Bagatelle: From Marbles to Pinballs and Beyond,” Play Stuff (blog), The Strong: National Museum of Play, January 13, 2014, accessed February 21, 2017,

[2] BMI Gaming, “The History of Pinball Machines and Pintables,” accessed February 21, 2017,

[3] Montague Redgrave, 1871, Improvement in bagatelles, U.S Patent 115,357, issued May 30, 1871,, accessed February 21, 2017.

[4] BMI Gaming.

[5] BMI Gaming.

[6] BMI Gaming.

Annotated Bibliography


“Gaming Machine Drive Requested in Baltimore.” The Washington Post (1923-1954), Jul 16, 1935. Accessed February 21, 2017. ProQuest.

This is an excerpt from a local paper requesting the seizure of all claw, slot and pinball machines or any other gambling devices of the like. Written to the post: July 15, 1935. Was printed in Baltimore, MD.

Magee, J. L. A little game of bagatelle, between Old Abe the rail splitter & Little Mac the gunboat general. (Cartoon).Philadelphia, PA, 1864. From Library of Congress. The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana. Accessed February 21, 2017.

This image is a political cartoon from 1864 that includes Abraham Lincoln playing a game of Bagatelle.  

More Electronic Games. Video Games Online Collection. The Strong: National Museum of Play. Rochester, New York.

This Online Collection of images provides images of different Pinball Machine advertisements. These advertisements allow us to see how Pinball was marketed to American society.  

Redgrave, Montague. 1871. Improvement in bagatelles. U.S Patent 115,357. Issued May 30, 1871. Accessed February 21, 2017.

Redgrave’s patent provides our research with a look at the original plans of the game that later transformed into what we know as Pinball today. Redgrave’s improvement of Bagatelle is considered to the start of the Pinball Machine.

Sruthers, Ann. “God, Ronald Reagan, and the Cosmic Pinball Machine” Minnesota Review 30, no. 1 (1988): 52. Accessed February 21, 2017. Project MUSE.

This poem provides an example of how Pinball has been incorporated into literature. It also provides some insight into how Pinball was viewed and played in the 1980s.


Bilek, Arthur J. and Alan S. Ganz. “The Pinball Problem – Alternative Solutions,” The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science 56, no. 4 (Dec. 1965): 432-445. Accessed February 21, 2017. JSTOR.

This article provides information detailing the differences between a gambling pinball machine and those used for amusement, as well as a discussion denoting the host of problems that stem from the attempts to regulate these devices.

BMI Gaming. “The History of Pinball Machines and Pintables.” Accessed February 21, 2017.

BMI’s webpage on Pinball Machines offers a concise overview of the history of the Pinball as well images of pinball machines over the years.

Drzazga, John. “Gambling and the Law. Slot Machines.” The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science 43, no. 1 (1952): 114-23. Accessed February 21, 2017. JSTOR.

This article provides material in regards to historical law, specifically gambling law and lists pinball, slot machines and others once regarded as gambling machines.

Eiden, Heribert, and Jurgen Lukas. Pinball Machines. West Chester, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1992.

Elden and Lukas’ book offers an indepth look into Pinball Machines from some of the earliest models to the models in existence at the time of publication.

“Federal Regulation of Gambling.” The Yale Law Journal 60, no. 8 (1951): 1396-416. Accessed February 21, 2017. JSTOR.

This journal discusses the roots of gambling culture in the United States and how it has affected society. It considers how gambling has grown to become a problem that now corrupts state and local government.  

“Gaming. Free Games Awarded for High Score on Pinball Machine Held Not ‘Property’ within Meaning of Anti-Gambling Statute,” Virginia Law Review 36, no. 1 (Feb. 1950): 102-104. Accessed February 21, 2017. JSTOR.

This article provides a collection of various court cases that were related pinball and gambling. It also lists the statutes of other states where pinball is considered gambling and is therefore illegal.

Jenson, Russ. “Russ Jenson’s Pinball History Page.” Accessed February 21, 2017.

This source provides a good jumping off point not only to a historian’s own work on pinball machines but also other works on similar topics

King, Rufus. “The Rise and Decline of Coin-Machine Gambling” The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science 55, no. 2 (Jun 1964): 199-207. Accessed February 21, 2017. JSTOR.

This article discusses how the pinball machine contributed to the gambling culture in its early years. It delved into the history of the pinball machine evolving from a toy to a coin slot machine.

Kocurek, Carly A. Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade. Minneapolis, MN: Univeristy of Minnesota Press, 2015.

Kocurek’s book explores the culture of videogames in America. Pinball is included in this culture and this book provides insight into videogame culture.

Pacific Pinball Museum. “Montague Redgrave’s 1870 Improvement in Bagatelle Patent,” Accessed February 21, 2017.

This source provides not only pictures of redgraves improved patent but information as well of an invention that is the predecessor of the classic pinball machine. It is important to note that this museum is not listed by the American Alliance of Museums so their professional standards can be questionable, however it does provide some useful background information.

Rasmussen, Chris. “Jobs Galore for Robots.” Rethinking History 5, no. 1 (Mar 2001): 149 – 162. Accessed February 21, 2017. EBSCOhost: Humanities International Complete.

This article provides information on how machines were a threat to laborers but the coin-operated machine market boomed in the 1920s and 1930s.

Shalhoub, MIchael. The Pinball Compendium: 1930s to 1960s. West Chester, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2007.

Often referred to as a collector’s series, Shalhoub’s series focuses on different eras of pinball history. It features information from designers, technicians, and managers to discuss how the games came to be. This source is useful in regard to how pinball culture was started and the way it became so widespread in the early 20th century.

Shalhoub, Michael. The Pinball Compendium: 1970 to 1981. West Chester, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2007.

This source will be useful for background information in regards to the history of the pinball machine.

Shalhoub, Michael. The Pinball Compendium: 1982 to Present. West Chester, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2012.

This book offers not only a large amount of background on the pinball machine, but also several good visuals. There is also insight into the planning and developing of specific machines.

Sharpe, Roger C. Pinball! New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977.

Sharpe’s book offers an in-depth look at a variety of pinball manufacturers and their designers. A book filled with photography and details that help readers not only to understand the beauty of these machines, but also their inner workings and the culture that surrounds them.

Sherin, Rick. “A Mere Bagatelle: From Marbles to Pinballs and Beyond.” Play Stuff (blog). The Strong: National Museum of Play. January 13, 2014. Accessed February 21, 2017.

This particular blog provides an outline of the evolution of the Pinball beginning with it’s roots in Croquet hundreds of years ago.

Stern Pinball. “About.” Accessed February 21, 2017.

This website displays a historical timeline of the company, “Stern Pinball” from 1930 to the 2010s.

Sternheimer, Karen. Pop Culture Panics: How Moral Crusaders Construct Meanings of Deviance and Delinquency. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Sternheimer’s book explores how American Society has responded to popular culture in the past and includes the pinball machine in her discussion.

The Strong: National Museum of Play. “International Center for the History of Electronic Games.”  Accessed February 21, 2017.

ICHEG features a video that highlights the process of creating and making games, where a brief clip of the inside of pinball machine is shown being worked on.

The Strong: The National Museum of Play. “Pinball in America.” Accessed February 21, 2017.

The Museum of Play gives a brief but well written history of pinball in America.

Zackariasson, Peter and Timothy L. Wilson. “Paradigm Shifts in the Video Game Industry.” Competitiveness Review 20, no. 2 (2010): 139 – 151. ProQuest.

This article explores the Videogame Industry and how it resulted in the fall of Pinball.