Have you ever seen a roulette wheel quite like this one? It’s a strange looking beast, but now The University of South Florida’s Institute for Digital Exploration is investigating this old roulette wheel which was made from an aluminium lamp during the golden age of illegal gambling in Tampa, Florida and they are asking for help from the public.
It was fashioned out of a lamp in the early-20th century and sat collecting dust for decades like a treasure out of an Indiana Jones movie inside a store-room of artifacts at the University of South Florida library.
The USF is now spreading their net to try and collect information from the public about how it came to be. Was this used in a makeshift casino?
Davide Tanasi, an assistant professor in USF’s History Department, is sure that there is a hidden tale behind the artefact and he is starting to crowd curate with the Institute for Digital Exploration.
The Institute has scanned the aluminium wheel in 3D and put it on the web, and replicas have been made to show them to the public. Check out the 3D Model here…it’s quite cool, you can spin it around your screen.
The model is an example of the kind of work the new institute, (IDEX) can do — using digital tech to find answers to the many questions the USF has about its collections.
It’s a neat solution for valuable artifacts- people can take a look at them without the risk of losing them.
Jonathan Rodriguez, a 27-year-old USF senior, is the key man behind the investigation- he is interning with IDEX.
What dooes it Look Like?
Well take a look at the 3D model, but essentially it’s a 19-inch-high lamp topped by a circular shade, made of aluminum. A small bicycle wheel was attached to the inside of the shade and the numbers 1 through 16 were painted in black around the shade, (not in sequence). Each number is in a yellow, white, green or red circle. There are also two black circles, one with a white star and the other with a white skull and crossbones.
There are screws drilled into the shade in between the circles. They slow and finally stop a clicker device as the wheel spins, a bit like a Wheel of Fortune. The clicker is missing, however.
You can bet on a number or a colour, just like in roulette. Hit the star and you win more, and death, you lose everything.
Illegal “gambling lamps” could have been used by criminal elements in the golden age of illegal gambling in Tampa from the 1920s through 1940s. It would have been easy to carry away during a raid. Another theory is that they were just used as a novelty game for a carnival, church or school function. That theory is not quite as exotic!
I bet you have never seen a Gambling Lamp in Las Vegas!