Monday, April 16, 2007

Time Machines

It hasn't started 'til the fat toothless lady starts laughing.

Across the street from the Fisherman's Grotto where the savory aroma of boiled seafood wafts in the air and hopeful seagulls coast overhead waiting for a snack is San Francisco's Musee Mecanique. Hidden behind swarms of tourists and the original Boudin Sourdough bakery, on Pier 45, the museum features 200+ working coin operated machines from the 1800s to the present day video games. Previously located at the lower level exterior of the Cliff House, the museum moved to the pier during the renovation of the restaurant in 2002.

According to owner Daniel Galland Zelinsky, who can be found in the maintenance room in the back wearing dark blue overalls and a big name tag that reads I work here, Musee Mecanique has been around for 70+ years. It was first started by his father, Edward Galland Zelinsky, who wanted to share his collection of mechanically operated machines with others. From mutoscopes and player pianos to dioramas, the museum showcases a myriad of coin machines from around the world. San Francisco history can also be found here, among other things, in a towering, robust mannequin with wild red hair and a toothless grin named Laughing Sal, who was located at Playland at the beach from 1940 to 1972.

'Because it's old school technology, it's a good way to experience it," Dan said, "if you look at the historical aspect, the machines nowadays are made the same way using quarters, nickels, and dimes."

The shrieks of pain and laughter from the Addams Family electric shock machine. The awe and wonderment of a mechanized toothpick carnival made by inmates of a California State Prison at the turn of the century. The amusing effort of many trying to beat the arm wrestling machine that Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries effortlessly defeat. These are just some of the things you can encounter at the Musee Mecanique. Whether they're 5 years old or 90, many visitors enjoy this place. With their free admission and myriad of entertaining coin machines ranging from a penny to a quarter, it's not hard to see why.


todd said...

you keep finding some really interesting places

scrappy said...

Thanks for the great post about the Musee Mecanique.

I want to point out that the Musee has a new web site at

It's long story, but the old site is not owned or operated by Dan Zelinsky, the owner of the Musee. It would be great if you could change the link in your post to the new site. Thanks!

Christina Kho said...

done. :)