Time Capsule: Vintage Coin-Operated Machines (Life Magazine, 1947)

Sometimes the coolest photos from Life magazine were crammed into incidental articles in the back of an issue. Take, for instance, an article on coin-operated machines — “Brave New Machines” — from the March 17, 1947 edition. The original images, taken by staff photographer Wallace Kirkland, showcase beautifully designed machines that would now probably fetch hundreds or thousands of dollars on the antiques market. But in ’47 they warranted little more than small pictures tucked into the very back of the magazine.

Here they are in their original splendor. Click on any image for the full-size version.

Photograph of a vintage coin-operated coffee machine, 1947
Coin-operated coffee machine with 4 possible mixtures, each selling for five cents.
Photograph of a vintage coin-operated pinball machine, 1947 (Life magazine, Wallace Kirkland)
Pinball champion George Schnabel (right) trying out coin-operated pinball machine, supporting his court action that pinball is a game of skills.
Photograph of a vintage coin-operated shoeshine machine, 1947 (Life magazine, Wallace Kirkland)
Coin-operated shoeshine machine is for men not afraid of modern contraptions. The charge is five cents for each shoe unless use is exceptionally parsimonious and agile.
Photograph of a vintage coin-operated book machine, 1947 (Life magazine, Wallace Kirkland)
Customer using a coin-operated book machine ($175), which has 50 different selections with titles visible for browsing.
Photograph of a vintage coin-operated popcorn machine, 1947 (Life magazine, Wallace Kirkland)
Customer using a coin-operated popcorn machine, which charges ten cents per bag, with customer waiting 90 seconds for the operation.
Photograph of a vintage coin-operated quiz machine, 1947 (Life magazine, Wallace Kirkland)
Customer using a coin-operated quiz machine, which asks 5 questions for five cents, then registers an IQ square ranging from “genius” to “poor.” It holds 32,000 questions on eight topics.