From the Pierce A. Miller Carriage Collection
Cretors Improved Special Model "C" Popcorn and Roasted Peanut Wagon
Rare surviving piece of Americana
Complete right down to the peanuts
Former museum display vehicle
One look at this Cretors Improved Special Model "C" popcorn and peanut wagon is enough to bring anticipatory smiles to faces young and old, and trigger the memory of the irresistible aroma of buttery, delicious popcorn.
Charles Cretors invented the automated, continuous popcorn popper in Chicago in 1893 when it was patented and made its debut at the Columbian Exposition.
Today the fifth generation of the Cretors family still makes modern popcorn systems for all sorts of amusement situations. Chances are that even the most modern multiplex fills the lobby with the enticing smell of popcorn from a Cretors machine.
The earliest and most desirable Cretors popcorn wagons were steam powered, like this beautifully restored example. The No. 1 Wagon Engine, with its nickel plated shafts and rods and spinning governor balls, added entertaining mechanical theater to the otherwise prosaic task of rotating the popcorn cooking mechanism.
The hurdy-gurdy monkey figure on the peanut roasting barrel is an even more creative and imaginative element who encourages onlookers to sample some of the product of his simulated simian energy.
Gaily decorated in yellow and blue, with hand painted sign panels and stained glass clerestory windows, the Cretors Popcorn and Roasted Peanut wagon is calculated to stand out in the most effusive midway setting. It was restored by Palmers of California for the Miller Collection in 1972 and while it hasn't been steamed up in some time, should be amenable to a straightforward return to production and entertainment of old and young people alike.
Cretors own description in its 1911 catalog says it best:
"They are the 'Models de Luxe' the most elaborate and complete machines for the purpose ever placed at the service of that constantly increasing class who are satisfied with nothing but the very best, and who spare no expense to place before their patrons attractions to please the eye and at the same time supply good unrivaled in quality to satisfy the palate.
"... During the eight years our Improved Special Models have been on the market, their popularity has been such as to necessitate frequent enlargements of the department devoted to their exclusive manufacture. A visitor at our factory can generally see from twenty-five to fifty under construction."
Despite the quantity produced Cretors Improved Special wagons are rarely seen today. This fine example, coming from long-term museum display and subsequent storage, should require only a sympathetic, mechanically inclined hand to bring it back into joyous, succulent production of uniformly popped, buttered and seasoned fresh popcorn and roasted peanuts.
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