MOLD-A-RAMA machine made in 1964 by Mold-A-Rama, Inc. for New York World's Fair, and Seattle World's Fair in 1962, is restored to its original glory to reissue souvenirs last seen half a century ago. MOLD-A-RAMA machine made in 1964 by Mold-A-Rama, Inc. for New York World's Fair, and Seattle World's Fair in 1962, is restored to its original glory to reissue souvenirs last seen half a century ago.
MOLDVILLE.com

Experience the souvenir fun of the 60s & 70s again, for the first time...

(MOLDVILLE is not affiliated with Mold-A-Rama, Inc. of Chicago, IL nor with the 1960s company Mold-A-Rama, Inc. of Los Angeles,  original operator of the "Disneyland Toy Factory.")

Website last updated:  11-27-12

Some History...


'Miller soldier' from 1950 (above)

 

This particular machine was built just before the '64 NY World's Fair, and was last used in 1976. When retired it was producing Pluto Disney figures, the Pluto mold being on the machine and some original old-wax Pluto figures being found strewn about inside the machine.

 

The MOLDVILLE Mold-A-Rama machine has many, many, many original molds with it. (Not the wax figures;  I'm talking about the aluminum mold halves themselves that push together to make the MAR figures.)

 

For those inquiring minds, the best information is that the Disneyland Toy Factory Mold-A-Rama machines were NOT ever at Disneyland. But they most certainly WERE at the 1964 New York World's Fair, used to mold various Disney characters, and of course the '64 NY World's Fair symbol- the UNISPHERE!

 

Question is: What to do with this vintage, beautiful, all-original, operating machine?

 

While this thought can change depending upon interest, the initial idea is to make figures for those interested, change the mold each week, and offer a 'subscription' for a years' worth of figures. That would be 52 figures, perhaps shipped monthly, including some otherwise commonly seen figures, some not-so-commonly seen figures, and most importantly some EXTREMELY RARELY SEEN figures. While the exact figures to be molded will not be disclosed ahead of time, the rarest molds to be used include molds used at:

     '62 World's Fair in SEATTLE

     '64 World's Fair in NEW YORK

     '67 EXPO in MONTREAL

     Mann's Chinese Theatre in HOLLYWOOD at movie premiers

 

Each week, on Moldville Mondays, I hope to post a VIDEO clip of the Moldville Mold-A-Rama making that week's featured figure. All those who are subscribed will receive that figure (and subsequent figures). To provide incentive to subscribe beforehand and not wait until a desirable ultra-rare figure is announced, each new figure will be molded only for those who are already subscribed-and only one per subscription. I hope to provide the look and feel-and excitement-of discovering a Mold-A-Rama machine and the magical figure it brings to life.

 

If/when I get REALLY up to speed (and gain sufficient interest), I may provide some original AUDIO tracks from the Mold-A-Rama machines circa 1960s. This audio was output from a tape player either as an 'attract' mode to randomly attract a passerby, or continuously.

 

The Moldville Mold-A-Rama is based in Washington, DC, in a location probably 500+ miles from the closest operating Mold-A-Rama machine.

 

Please, PASS THE WORD! Let me have your thoughts at MoldvilleMoldarama@gmail.com. The more interest there is, the more likely this is to happen! And soon!

 

The subscription price is looking like it will be set at a mere $5 per week (plus nominal monthly shipping.) Remember, you'll want to subscribe quickly and not miss out on any Moldville Mondays. I plan to start with a bang! If you miss any given week because you haven't yet subscribed, you will have missed your opportunity to own that week’s figure, which very well may have been one of the many extremely rare figures.

J.H. Miller (aka "Tike"), inventor of the machine made by Mold-A-Rama, Inc. made a business of making statues about 3" to 5" high.  In 1938 he started his business making hand-painted nativity statues out of a plaster called "chalkware."  In 1950, still working with plaster, he made a number of hand-painted plaster Korean War soldiers, and filed a  US Patent to his development of flexible molds to make such statues with spaced legs:  US Pat. No. 2,660,776.

Around 1955 J.H. Miller began experimenting with plastic injection, making a number of jungle and forest animals, and dinosaurs, as represented by the original 1957 J.H. Miller brochure shown below.  A nice website explaining some background of the mid-1950s plastic figures made by J.H. Miller, which also identifies Ruth Dudley and Frank Dutton as retained sculptors of the figures, is found at:  www.dinosaurcollector.150m.com/Miller.htm



Here's a happy fellow with his family (and JH MILLER T-Rex) circa 1958!


1950s Miller brontosaurus on top; 1964 Sinclair Oil brontosaurus on bottom (from a machine identical in design to mine, also at the 1964 New York World's Fair.)  Note the functionality of the base of the later figures:  it provided the ability to reduce the evacuation holes to just two. (There has to be at least two:  one input and one ouput.)  Without a base, each lower extremity of the large JH Miller animals required its own outlet hole.  (Note there is even an evacuation hole in the tail of the 1955 Miller dinosaur!  The dinosaur's tail attaches at that same point to the base, permitting efficient evacuation during the compressed air phase of the machine's process.)


In September 1957, J.H. Miller filed a patent application to his new injection polyethylene plastic molding technique - the base patent listed on the machine made by Mold-A-Rama, Inc.: US Pat. No. 3,068,518 (note serial tag of Mold-A-Rama, Inc. at the very top of this page.)  The Miller Aliens were obviously formed by a two-part bottomless metal mold (based on the visible seam in the figure).  Thus, it naturally follows that the prototype machines must have been used for J.H. Miller's production the following year (1958) of his line of 18 different earth invaders, now affectionately known in collector circles as "Miller Aliens".  One of those eighteen Miller Aliens, the PURPLE PEOPLE EATER shown above-right, dates the set in 1958, being inspired by the June 1958 hit song of the same name (...It was a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater...)  J.H. Miller figures are highly collectible, and the PURPLE PEOPLE EATER, which originally sold for 15c, is no exception as it can easily fetch $300 or more in complete condition!  A very nice website that discusses the Miller Aliens is found at:  www.miller-aliens.blogspot.com

But the Miller Aliens, perhaps the most creative and influential figures they made, would be their last product line.  By April 1958, J.H. Miller Manufacturing was struggling financially.  To keep the company afloat, J.H. Miller himself, and his wife Shirley, both personally guaranteed a series of fifteen notes totalling $21,000 to one company alone, but a year later bankruptcy for J.H. Miller Manufacturing became inevitable.   The website dinosaurcollector.150m.com indicates that the last advertising flyers from the company appeared dated 1960.



The smaller J.H. Miller animals (elephant on right) used only two evacuation holes in bottom, just like the Mold-A-Rama re-molded version of the same figure, indicating it was most likely formed on a prototype machine at J.H. Miller.



These are the cow and donkey from the J.H. Miller plastic Nativity scene.  J.H. Miller made a good business out of selling his chalkware nativity sets from 1938 through the mid-1950s, but sometime in the late 1950s they manufactured a blow molded, hollow plastic version.  Pieces from this plastic nativity scene, obviously manufactured on an early version of the Mold-A-Rama type machine, rarely show up.


In fact, the nativity figures appear to be the figures which bridged the gap at J.H. Miller Mfg. between the chalkware plaster era and the Mold-A-Rama plastic era.  Can you tell which of these is made of plastic? 


The sheep figure from the same respective plaster and plastic nativity sets.  It's a shame that painting of the MOLD figures isn't more predominant, though it would be hard to live up to the hand-painted works of art sold by J.H. Miller Mfg.


My "Earth Invaders", aka Miller Aliens:  PURPLE PEOPLE EATER, CERES, 2-eyed MOON MAN, NORTH STAR, & MILKY WAY.


Obviously the 1958 Miller Aliens were manufactured on a machine similar to mine!  (I like the 15c marking on the bottom of the Purple People Eater larger Miller Alien, and 10c on the bottom of the Milky Way smaller Miller Alien!)



It's hard to believe that cave people would have looked like this, but there you go.  J.H. Miller's take on a caveman, cavewoman, and baby.  What is most interesting about these hollow figures is that the injection holes in their feet are smaller than those of a Mold-A-Rama, and that there is no base, inferring that they correspond to the 1955 era of J.H. Miller Mfg.  The cave itself is closer to the 'modern' Mold-A-Rama methodology (with the exception of the two large, extra evacuation holes.)


The machine made by Mold-A-Rama, Inc. was an instant hit at the 1962 Seattle World's fair, being written up in the LA Times:

 

LOS ANGELES TIMES, Business & Finance section, October 29, 1962

 

                   Machine Molds Items While Customer Waits

                                         By Martin Bossman

The $2.7 Billion vending industry has come up with a new angle-the average American's inate curiosity about hos things are made and what makes a complex piece of machinery tick.

Developed by Los Angeles-headquartered Mold-A-Rama Inc., a gaudy (red, green, blue, yellow, silver and white) machine will make and dispense a souvenir toy, model or household item from raw plastic to finished product.

Before your eyes.

In 33 seconds.

With sound effects, yet.

And all this for 25 cents, the fourth part of a dollar.

The first of the complex machines (each looks like a diabolical cross between a juke box and a pinball machine) are now being installed in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.  Southern California is one of a cross-section of 18 to 20 U.S. regions in which Mold-A-Rama is being introduced, according to Ben A. O'Dorisio, president of the firm.

The decision to place a limited number of the costly machines (each unit runs $3,600) in this area was made after six months of successful test marketing.

During the year, area residents-many of them children-are expected to slip 2 million quarters into the shiny innards of the machines and take home a variety of plastic gadgets ranging from a piggy bank to the bust of John F. Kennedy.

                       World's Fair Souvenir

Lloyd Settle, director of marketing and merchandising for the firm, said a test machine was set up at the Seattle World's Fair turning out replicas of the Space Needle.  "At 50 cents a piece sales were great," he said.  "But when we cut the price to 25 cents as a test, sales tripled." 

Discovery of a method to produce the various dies in quantity has cut costs and will enable the firm to stick with the 25-cent price, Settle said.

Five years in the developing, the machine involves chemical (plastics), refrigeration, mechanical, electronic and audio-visual engineering.

The automated manufacturing process begins with the insertion of a coin.  Immediately, plastic begins to flow, dials spin indicating temperature and air and plastic pressures, the molds close, open, and close again, and finally a lever pushes the finished product into the delivery slot.  In just 33 seconds, the raw plastic is heated, injected, molded and cooled.

                       Count Down, Too

All of this is accompanied by a Cape Canaveral-type countdown.

And when it's all over, some of the machines even say, "Thank you."

The present units manufacture one item at a time, including animals, models of weapons and aircraft, souvenirs, toys, figures, busts of political and Hollywood personalities, and small household and personal items.

Dies are rotated from machine to machine every few weeks to offer a variety of items.  New units on the drawing boards will give the buyer a choice of two or more items from each machine.

Each die is made from a hand-sculptured model.  Three new items-a singing angel, a Santa's helper and a reindeer on a cloud-are being prepared for the holiday season.

The machines are being placed with large retailers and in recreational, travel and tourist centers.  All are company operated and none is for sale.  One thousand of the machines are expected to be in operation around the nation by February, with market projections of 32 million sales in the first year.

Mold-A-Rama is a subsidiary of Automatic Retailers of America, a giant in the vending line with estimated gross revenue of $185 million for this year.

O'Dorisio sees a big plus in the machine's compactness (it operates in less than 10 sq. ft.) for cost-conscious retailers.  "It is no secret" he says, "that the pressures of price competition are demanding changes in consumer selling as radical as those that occasioned the industrial revolution.

"Within the decade," he predicts, "a large percentage of retail selling space may well be given to such machines.  Recently completed field studies by selected retailers indicate that the units often provide a higher profit per square foot than is offered by conventional merchandise displays - in addition to creating greater consumer excitement."

In the future, O'Dorisio said, the consumer will be able to purchase everything from a set of dishes to pocket combs, vases, goblets, ash trays and wearing apparel in the Mold-A-Rama.


CHICAGO SUN TIMES, December 3, 1962


1964:  Machines on location at the Sinclair exhibit of the New York World's Fair.  This photo upper left (closeups above and left) comes courtesy of David at Gorilla's Don't Blog. The machines used are the 'standard' baby blue with the grey 'atom' front door.  The backglass can be seen in closeup to the left.




The two images above are screen shots of a Jam Handy film taken at the NYWF in 1964.  MOLDVILLE.com owns this exact moldset for the BACKWARDS FACING BRONTOSAURUS - I don't mean the same figure, i mean this exact moldset (the paint scratches match up perfectly!)

1965 (below):  Machines at the same location - the Sinclair exhibit of the New York World's Fair, but one year later than the image above.  This image is copyrighted to Bill Cotter, used with great thanks and permission!  In this image (and the closeup below it), you can see ALL SIX Sinclair machines.  Interestingly, it appears that the machines from the '64 season, which were 'standard' baby-blue machines in '64, were changed to all-green machines with Sinclair decals on the front and side.  The backglass also appears to be different.



Here's a closeup from another GREAT shot at the 1965 NY World's Fair, again from the collection of Bill Cotter.  One operator told me that these Sinclair machines were so popular and continuously vending that they when they refilled them with polyethylene plastic supply, which is usually put into the machine in hard pellet form, the operator came with hot vats of pre-melted green plastic and poured the hot plastic into the vat in the machine.  This saved probably a couple hours or more of down time while the new plastic pellets melted.  Some years later one operator designed an auxiliary supply vat off the upper back of the machine that would extend the time between required resupply visits.


Another 1964 NY World's Fair photo from the fantastic collection of Bill Cotter.  This one shows two Disneyland Toy Factory machines outside the Billy Graham Pavilion (closeup below).  The machine on the right appears to be vending a Donald Duck figure.  Nearby was a sign that read:  MOLD YOUR OWN UNISPHERES, MOLD-A-RAMA, THE WORLD'S SMALLEST PLASTIC FACTORY.



August 1965, NY World's Fair:  These Sinclair brontosaurus' (right) were hot off the press!  Perhaps these kids, who would now be in their late 50s, still have these ubiquitous souvenirs?  Below is another style machine glimpsed at the NY World's Fair in 1964.  (photos courtesy Bill Cotter)


Though more than two decades after he invented the machine made by Mold-A-Rama, Inc., in 1978 J.H. (Tike) Miller wasn't finished innovating:

PEOPLE Magazine,March 13, 1978

It looks like a giant, gaudy pinball machine in permanent tilt, but instead of eating coins it dispenses them. What the Golden Goat (as creator Tike Miller dubbed it) devours is aluminum cans. "This is the first vending machine where you throw in junk and get back money," says Miller. If the contraption works as well as in its current test in 20 Phoenix shopping centers, then Golden Goats may spread like Golden Arches.

All that glittered in Miller's past wasn't quite so Rube Goldberg. Heretofore a Scottsdale toymaker, his previous hot item was a machine that molded plastic dinosaurs. But on learning that more than 75 percent of the 27 billion cans manufactured in the U.S. annually were not recovered, Miller sought a solution. "Aluminum manufacturers have been spending millions to clean up the country and conserve energy through recycling," he notes. Yet 640 million pounds of aluminum are left lying around each year. So he and partner Bob Attarian, who developed the machine's electronic system, set to work and within just two years got their Goat.

After cans are dumped into a hopper and pushed through an opening, the machine starts automatically. "First it separates out all of the nonmagnetic materials," Miller explains, "leaving steel and other metals to be separated by magnets." Another operation extracts the aluminum cans. These are blown through a flywheel crusher which reduces them to 17 percent of their original size. The crushed cans are then weighed on a solid-state electronic scale, and coins pour out like a jackpot from a one-armed bandit. The payoff can be adjusted (up to 99¢ a pound) in sync with the going market for aluminum scrap. A Goat can gorge 7,000 cans per hour. Yet, shrewdly, it was kept small enough to fit into a single parking space, making it ideal for malls, gas stations, parks and picnic grounds.

Miller expects to have 6,000 Goats in operation within two years and also foresees multiple benefits: "The kids will be able to make spending money by cleaning up the environment; the investors who lease the machine will get their money back by selling aluminum to the manufacturers, and Bob and I will smile all the way to the bank."


The SEATTLE MET magazine ran a nice article about MOLDVILLE.com in their JULY 2012 issue.  You can read the article online here:


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