Northwestern 39

(Click on image to enlarge it)

Northwestern Corporation, Morris, IL, c. 1939, 15 1/2". This is similar to the Northwestern 33 Ball Gum, but bigger and with some minor but important differences in design. It's a porcelainized cast iron vendor and was available with a bulk vending wheel or a gumball wheel. When I say it's larger than the 33 Ball gum, I mean it's taller, has a bigger footprint, and is heavier. It's just more substantial all around.

The major difference between the 2 models is the specific design of the mechanism. The 33 Ball Gum has a self-contained mechanism that sits atop a base. On that model there are 2 porcelainized components: The base and the lid. The Northwestern 39 also has a porcelainized base and lid, but the base on this model consists of 2 parts. One part is the large bottom in which the vending wheel sits, but the other part sits above the vending wheel and provides the base for the globe. The underside of that top piece has some contours and parts that enable the mechanism to work properly, and without them it won't work. Because of that, if you ever swap pieces between machines you need to match 3 pieces, not just 2, and 2 of those 3 pieces are adjacent and have to match perfectly if the machine is to look right. Therefore, it's much harder to assemble a Northwestern 39 than it is to assemble other Northwesterns.

Northwestern made the Model 39 in red, white, blue, yellow, green, tan, brown, and black porcelain. Of these colors, red is by far the most common, while white, blue, and yellow are all uncommon but available if you're patient. Green, tan, and brown are quite scarce, and unless you're lucky you'll wait a long time to find one available. The black example is owned by the country's leading Northwestern collector and is the only one he knows of---you'll wait much longer for that one. Northwestern also sold tan bodies with black lids, but I've never seen one in person. Given the scarcity of tan and black, coupled with the fact I've never seen one in person, I'd have to think this combination is also quite scarce.

I've seen 2 styles of lid. One is a rounded pressed steel lid identical to that on the Northwestern 40, while the other is a more heavily tiered lid made of cast iron. Both were porcelainized. You can see the rounded lid on the yellow machine, while the green and white machines have tiered lids. It's quite likely that the heavily tiered cast iron lid was earlier, while the rounded steel lid came out later and was used after the Northwestern 40 was introduced.

Northwestern 39's came with tall or short globes. Both were correct on the Model 39 and the Model 40, but the tall globes were more common. I don't know the percentages, but I'd guess that the tall globes outnumber the short globes by at least 10-to-1. The machines pictured above all have tall globes.

Some Northwestern 39's have a thin pressed-steel tray that sits inside the coin compartment on top of the baseplate. These were factory-made and made it easier for vendors to remove their money on route. Vendors just slid the tray out, dumped the coins into their accumulated stash, and then slid the empty tray back into place. The tray was a godsend if the baseplate was screwed to a stand or wall bracket, and would have been a nice feature to have on some earlier Northwestern models. Most Northwestern 39's that I've seen don't have this tray, but when they do you usually don't know it until you get home and open the machine. The 3 machines pictured above have trays, but on none of them did I know that until after I'd bought the machine. It usually won't make or break a sale if you know about it, but it's a nice bonus to find after the fact.

Like the Hawkeye, this model was also available in a bell-ringer style. According to Silent Salesmen Too, every 10th pull would ring a bell and the customer would get the next pull for free. These were outlawed as gambling devices and are now scarce. Good thing, too; no telling how many youths were corrupted and never recovered from the influence of these heinous devices.

All of the examples above are 100% original, although I doubt the 'Victor' decal on the green example is factory-original.

Many thanks to Dan Davids (a.k.a. "Mr. Northwestern") for his critical review and content suggestions.



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