Post-Standard Puts Pinball Past on Display


A recent article on the Syracuse Post-Standard’s website recalled the New York city’s history with pinball; like in many American cities, it was considered a menace to society.

“The game had a seedy reputation and some thought it contributed to juvenile delinquency,” wrote Johnathan Croyle, the article’s author. “Others thought it was another form of gambling.”

From the 1940s through the ’70s, New York City and other U.S. metros banned pinball. However, in Syracuse, the games remained legal, so long as they didn’t offer any incentive to play well, like free games (also, children had to be accompanied by an adult to play). Games also had to be licensed by the city. Of course, that still meant plenty of illegal pinball operations.

The article recounts stories from 1946-1959, the era in which the “war on pinball” raged. In April 1959, state troopers seized several illegal machines, taking them to the dump, smashing them and – for good measure – setting them ablaze. A few weeks later, in May, 150 pinball machines were taken in a warehouse raid.

Thanks to a shift in the culture, pinball machines can now be freely enjoyed at arcades, bars and elsewhere in Syracuse and beyond.


Comments are closed.