This picture of a street scene in Pigeon, Michigan is thought to be taken right around 1900. The amusement parlor or penny arcade was popular in the 1890s through the early 1900s. These storefront shops were stocked with slot machines, phonographs, muscle testing machines, guess your weight scales, and fortune-telling card dispensers. The clientele was typically men and these storefront amusements were very popular.
The most popular attraction was the kinetoscope, a moving picture peep show that some called penny vaudeville. By the time this picture was taken, it’s likely that the owner was also showing moving pictures shows for five cents a sitting. The typical amusement parlor or dance hall would wall off a back room and set up benches, a screen, and a projector. One reel show could be shown for a nickel. These small initial theatres sprung up like weeds in large cities and small towns as they were inexpensive to set up and run.
Site of the Amusement Parlor Today
Despite our best attempts, we don’t know too much about this amusement parlor. Maybe someone has some background. We will go out further on a limb and make a guess that the old amusement parlor was on the same location as Thumb Cellular. I’m sure someone will chime in if that is not the case.