There really isn’t a good image of the Wonderland Penny Arcade, although you can make out the “1” and the “cents” symbol. It stood between the Administration Building/Walnut Street Entrance and the Theater. You can get glimpses of it in some photographs showcasing other buildings. This closeup from a 1906 postcard of the structures near the end of the Lagoon shows, from left to right, the Fatal Wedding building, the Theater (with a banner proclaiming the revue “THe South Before the War” hanging in the doorway), and the edge of the Penny Arcade.
This closeup from the 1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the Penny Arcade (labeled “Booth”) located between the Administration Building and the Theater. Notice that the Fatal Wedding is labeled a “Delusion”, rather than an “Illusion”. Was the cartographer making a little joke?
Another closeup of a postcard showing the corner of the Arcade on the right. Again, you can just make out “1 (cent symbol)” and a letter “V”.
This is a closeup of a section of a postcard showing Wonderland at night. The building on the left is the theater, but the one to the right is the Penny Arcade at night.
This postcard gives a view of the Penny Arcade by daylight, between the Administration Building and the Theater:
What was in the Penny Arcade? Today we associate “Arcade” with, if anything, amusement parlors featuring video games and pinball machines and automated games of other sorts — air hockey, basketball, and the like. Of these, only pinball was around in 1906, and that of a very primitive type, without the electric, solenoid-powered bumpers and other features. Pinball was not a feature of the early arcades.
Penny arcades started out as locations to listen to the new photographs. Without buying a photograph, a patron might pay for the opportunity to listen to one. But soon another device captured everyone’s interest. Thomas Edison had tried to market his new motion pictures by putting them in a cabinet, running the on a continuous loop, and letting the patron look at it through a lens focused on an illuminated frame. But Edison’s kinetoscope was subject to frequent breakdowns. The constantly running film under tension tended to break frequently.
Top: Kinetoscope; bottom: San Francisco Kinetoscope parlor. Both from Wikipedia
It remained for an ex-Edison employee, William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, to solve the problem, Dickson made the first sound movies, combining Edison’s phonograph with the motion picture. He also made the first 3D movies. The Mutoscope is a testament to his insight and creativity. Instead of trying to cope with constantly-breaking nitrocellulose film, Dickson had each frame of the film printed out as a black and white photograph onto heavy card stock. When the entire movie had been thus printed out, he bound the cards together on a cylindrical core. This could be placed in a device that had a metal “finger to hold the card and a light to illuminate it, and a crank handle to turn the cylinder. With the patron looking at the exposed and illuminated card through a viewer, he or she turned the handle and each card was stopped momentarily, so that the cylinder of cards acted like a giant flip-book. The paper was resilient enough to withstand a great many cycles of turning the drum, and there was no film to break. Dickson called it the mutoscope, and it transformed popular entertainment
The cylinders of cards could be switched in and out, but it was easier to simply provide a lot of the mutoscopes. Mutoscope parlors opened up in cities. Some inNew York had hundreds of mutoscopes.
The machines were mass-produced out of cast iron, and would stand up to a lot of wear and tear. Plenty of mutoscopes and mutoscope reels survive today, and can be found in “Old Time” arcades.
At first they charged a nickel (giving rise to the term Nickelodeon, from “Nickel” + “Odeon”, a name for a theater, after the theater for singing built in Athens in 435 BCE by Pericles), but it was found more profitable to charge a penny in most cases, giving rise to the name “Penny Arcade”.
So at first Penny Arcades housed pay phonographs, kinetoscopes, and mutoscopes, where patrons would pay they penny or nickel for a brief entertainment, then roam off to another. But other amusements invariably crept in. An article in the March 24, 1906 edition of Street Railway Journal , a trade publication for streetcar companies, described what a typical Arcade should have. There should be a number of mutoscopes and phonographs, a cashier to make change for the coin-operated devices, and a selection of other devices.
Some of these devices can still be found in amusement parks. — the punching bag, hand grip strength tester, scale, and candy dispenser. An “Uncle Sam” was another kind of hand grip strength tester, made in the shape of a statue of Uncle Sam. The patron put in his coin and tried to squeeze together Sam’s hand
A Lunf Tester or Spirometer measured how much you could exhale
Postal Card machines could be of several sorts. They might dispense postcards with pictures of the location, or cartoons (often more risque than in publications), or they might give you a “love letter” from a fictitious sweetheart.
How many of these and which ones were present at Wonderland we do not know — except that the 1906 register for the park observes that there were 20 to 25 mutoscopes, on which rent of $2 per week was paid.
The Photographer was in a building with three peaks next to the Wild Animal Show. Note that they playfully spelled it “Fotografer.” Also observe that there’s a Lunch Counter next door.
It was located across the Boardwalk from the Fire and Flames show. Presumably people could pose inside for photos, or have their picture taken at one of the attractions (see the last picture on the Japanese Village page). There were also celluloid buttons sold at the park, and the photographer might have taken the pictures for these.
There was a Shooting Gallery nestled between the Fire and Flames grandstand and the Thompson Scenic Railway building. It’s not mentioned in any newspaper reports, and there are no photographs of it, so we would not even know about it, were it not for the 1906 Sanborn map
The Flying Horses Carousel
The Flying Horses Carousel at Wonderland, like the Whirl the Whirl, was owned and operated by Louis Bopp, who had several attractions along Revere Beach Boulevard, including other carousels. Perhaps associated with this is the fact that we have no official or significant photographs of either attraction. There are many pictures of the Carousel building, but not the carousel within.
The Carousel and Hell Gate on the Sanborn map and in a panoramic shot from the top of the Shoot the Chutes
Prince Tiny Mite
This photo shows, in the foreground, a Moxie salesman with his cart in the shape of a bottle of Moxie. In the background you can see the pavilion with a banner at the top reading “Tiny Mite — Smallest Horse in the World”. This was not far from the Third Degree funhouse.
Prince Tiny Mite was on display at Wonderland for the 1907 season only. His story was cut from the published version of Lost Wonderland, so I’ll give some details of his life here.
Tiny Mite’s dimensions varied from report to report, but the range given is 19 to 31 inches and a weight of “under 100 pounds.” Reported values ranged from 51 to 70 pounds. According to Bit and Spur Magazine, Tiny Mite was foaled in the nation of Colombia in South America in 1903. He was exhibited by various owners until 1905, when he appeared with Robert J. Blake’s animal show at the Chicago White City Park, although it’s not clear if Blake was his owner at the time. (See the page on Wild Animal Shows for more information on Blake) During the White City show, they would place Tiny Mite on a fully set dining table, and the horse would walk around the table, carefully avoiding treading on the dinnerware.
During the first couple of weeks the publicity department of Wonderland seemed to have been misinformed about the horse, because they call him “Princess Tiny Mite”, apparently on the theory that a diminutive creature must be female, or being influenced by the previous year’s Princess Trixie. They caught on after a few weeks, and changed the notices to “Prince Tiny Mite.” What performance, if any, Tiny Mite gave at Wonderland is not recorded.
Prince Tiny Mite has a surprisingly long career. It’s possible that there was another miniature horse of the same name (or one using the same name to “cash in” on the original’s fame), but his active years could be spanned by the lifetime of a horse, so most if not all of the accounts probably refer to him.
Here he is in 1924:
Here he is in 1923, back at Revere Beach:
He showed up in a “Believe it or not” wannabe in January of 1931:
Not only had Tiny Mite appeared with Blake, he was also owned for a time in 1912 by George Washburn (who created Paradise — The Show Beautiful for Wonderland). The next year, he toured with the Ferari Brother Wild Animal Show.
Although one report said that he retired in 1927 to become a pet in North Dakota, the last account I have of him has him back on exhibition with the Fisher Brothers Circus in 1931.