Enterprise Peanuts

Enterprise Vending Machine Co., Chicago, IL, 1905, 27". According to Silent Salesmen Too this is a rare machine, and it's one of only 3 example I've seen or heard of over the last 20 years. An oak case houses a clockwork mechanism that delivers a box of peanuts when the customer inserts a penny. A metal tag affixed to the front says the following:


That really all I know about this model. You can see more pictures here , here , and here .

The machine pictured above is nearly 100% original, in outstanding condition, and works. I have 2 people to thank for that, and they're part of a good story about how this was found and brought back to life. Here it is:


This machine has 2 saviors. Its story begins with a smart picker and ends with a smart repair artist---and I do mean "artist." I bought this on ebay so all I did was write a check---two checks, actually.

A guy named Tom Tobin from Ohio listed this on ebay in April of 2003, and only after I bought it did I get the full story of how he'd acquired it. I don't remember some of the details, but I remember the important parts. The unimportant details include what kind of store it was (a shoe store, I think) and whether the store was about to be sold or torn down, but for whatever reason it was about to disappear from the landscape in its then-present form. Tom had been asking for years for permission to go through the store looking for antiques to buy from them, but the owner or his family had always declined. One day they didn't.

So Tom's going through the store, looking in cupboards and closets and rummaging through drawers. Sometime during his search he went into a closet under or beside a stairway and looked around. On a shelf behind the stairs he saw a dark form that looked like a black box. He almost passed it by because it was so dark and grungy and blended so well into the other dirt and grime on the shelf, but as he turned away to leave the closet the shape caught the edge of his vision and he turned back for a closer look. You got it; it was the Enterprise.

He didn't know what he had, but he knew it was something worthwhile. He carted it home with all his other stuff and then became my hero. He cleaned the black box to the gorgeous oak case you see above, and he did it right. He didn't refinish it, he just cleaned it. I've pictured the Enterprise tag and original filigree decal on the outside of the front, which made it through his cleaning unscathed. From his initial description I've always pictured a complete transformation of this machine from a black-coated don't-touch-it-it's-so-grimey wood box to the pristine machine above.

He also found an original peanut box in the machine. That box is now in the round display window on the machine's front, surrounded by new peanuts. What you can't see, and which I didn't realize until after I'd owned the machine for years, is that the box fits into a metal holder that I assume was designed specifically to hold a display box, since the holder is sized perfectly for the box.

Tom also looked at the mechanism and saw that it needed some work. He described it as not working but said he believed all the parts were there. So that's what I bought and that's what I got; a great Enterprise case with a complete but nonworking mechanism.

When I got the machine I looked at the mechanism, futzed gently a little, and soon realized that fixing it exceeded the limits of my mechanical abilities. Most things do, so I'm used to concluding that and now do it early, before I screw something up. Anyway, here's where the second of the machine's saviors comes into play.

During a conversation with Dennis Hartwig at a Chicagoland show, he mentioned all the work he's done on Pulver mechanisms. These also have clockwork mechanisms, so I told him about my Enterprise and asked if he'd take a look at it. He said "sure, send me the machine," so that's what I did. He kept it awhile but kept me well informed about his progress, and in the end he had it back to working condition with relatively minimal intervention. Dennis knows I'm anal about originality and I asked him specifically to not go beyond the minimum he needed to in order to get this working. Dennis honored my request. He removed, cleaned, and lubed the mechanism, and replaced only 2 small pieces that were needed to get the mechanism working. Looking at the machine now, I wouldn't know which pieces Dennis had replaced had he not told me, and in fact have forgotten one of them. Dennis did a great job in making the new parts look old and consistent with the rest of the mechanism, and believe me---these parts were unobtrusive to begin with.

That's the story. These guys are my official Heroes of the Enterprise, and are the opposite of so many others we see. I bitch a lot about folks who screw up great machines, like guys---and it's always a guy---who buff a great patina off of a machine when doing so simply detracts from the machine's desirability and value. Or even worse, the imbeciles who clean a tiny spot on an otherwise primo machine and then tell potential buyers that they've done it to show what it'll look like after it's cleaned completely. Tom and Dennis honored this machine by bringing it back to its full glory in a way that I couldn't have done myself. This machine owes its life to both of them, and since it can't speak I'd like to thank them both on its behalf.



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