The Monarch Card Machine Company
by Jerry F. Schimmel
The tokens and history of the Monarch Card Machine Co. of San Francisco — and a bit of the Beach
The Monarch Company lasted two years from 1896 through 1897. It built slot machines. The owner and manager was Charles L. Leonhardt, Jr., a man who led a diversified business career from 1891 through 1908 and probably earlier. His Monarch Company was eventually absorbed into the Reliance Card Machine Company for the years 1899 and 1900, a venture managed by Moses Gunst and Benny Wertheimer of Gunst Cigar Dealers. Why didn't it keep going? Very likely the card machine business in 1900 was losing out to fancier contrivances which paid out in cash, not cigars.
Though Leonhardt was listed as president for The Reliance, Gunst was the real owner with broad and often shady political connections throughout San Francisco. Even though slot machines brought extra tax money to the city, they were outlawed in 1909 by the Board of Supervisors because of increased pressure by civic reform movements.
The “card machine” was an early slot machine with playing cards mounted on a spinning rack. What a player might win - mainly cigars - was based on the poker hand appearing after the handle was pulled. A typical rewards list is shown.
Leonhardt began his career in cigars and tobacco, moving to a variety of activities including slot machines, saloons, opera halls, a tamale shop and “oriental grottoes, ” the latter an exotic form of saloon. For two years Leonhardt and a Robert D. Hagerty ran a beachfront resort at the west end of Golden Gate Park called Golden Gate Villa on the corner of Ocean Boulevard (now called The Great Highway) and Fulton Street. Like many others Leonhardt’s downtown businesses were lost in the Earthquake and Fire of April 1906, but within five months Leonhardt and a Harry V. Pointer opened another “grotto” at 1334 Fillmore Street which remained in place through 1908. After that year Leonhardt was no longer listed in the reference books
Two tokens are shown here.
The first is brass with a 21mm diameter, its legend reading: Monarch Card Machine Co. 200 Sutter St., S.F. Cal., klinkner s.f. (Blank Reverse).
The second was made for the beach resort and struck in nickel alloy with a 25mm diameter. Its legend reads: Golden Gate Villa, Leonhardt & Hagerty, Ocean Beach, Good For One Drink, j.c. irvine s.f.
The first token was for card machines. The second was a bar credit chit.
- Fey, Marshall, Slot Machines: A Pictorial History of The First 100 Years, Liberty Belle Books, Reno (1989)
- Wehner, Michael F., “Moses Gunst Has Went” in Papers of The Pacific Coast Numismatic Society 2017, San Francisco (2017)
- San Francisco City Directories, 1891–1908