Williams pinball playfield design collection Edit


Finding Aid Author
Julia Novakovic and Dane Flansburgh
Finding Aid Date
December 2015
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of Description


  • 1946 – 1994 (Creation)


  • 48.25 Linear Feet (Whole)
  • 22.8 Gigabytes (Whole)

Agent Links



  • Abstract

    The Williams pinball playfield design collection contains more than 200 large hand-drawn playfield sketches, as well as mechanical insert drawings and cabinet artwork. Digital images of playfields and insert drawings are also included. The materials range in date from 1946 through 2015, with the bulk of the materials from 1946-1975.

  • Conditions Governing Use

    This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donors have not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, they have given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.

  • Custodial History

    The Williams pinball playfield design collection was donated to The Strong in November 2015 as a gift from Williams Electronic Games, Inc. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 115.4166 and were received from Williams Electronic Games, Inc. in two hanging vertical file cabinets and one box. Digital scans were received separately from Duncan Brown in November 2015.

  • Preferred citation for publication

    Williams pinball playfield design collection, Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong

  • Processed by

    Julia Novakovic and Dane Flansburgh, December 2015

  • Historical Note

    Harry E. Williams (1906-1983) was an American engineer, game designer, and entrepreneur who paved the way for the coin-operated pinball industry. Williams originally worked as a pinball operator in California during the early 1930s, but he soon began to design his own pinball games. He invented the tilt mechanism to prevent cheating in games, as well as the electronic action device which “kicked” the ball across the playfield. In 1943, he founded Williams Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Illinois—the American center for pinball production. His company rose to prominence as one of the most important arcade and pinball game manufacturers in the United States after World War II.

    Williams pinball designers introduced many pinball innovations, including ramps, scoring reels, drop targets, and modern 3-inch flippers. The company was acquired and incorporated several times, resulting in company name changes (becoming Williams Electronics, Inc. in 1974 and WMS Industries in 1987). In 1988, WMS purchased competitor Bally/Midway. The pinball division of WMS closed in 1999, after more than 50 years of designing and manufacturing electro-mechanical and solid-state pinball machines.

  • Related Materials

    The International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) holds more than 20 Williams pinball machines.

  • System of Arrangement

    Series I: Williams pinball playfield drawings, 1946-1994

    Series II: Mechanical insert drawings, 1957-1994

    Series III: Cabinet and playfield artwork, 1983-1993

    Series IV: Digital files, 2015

External Documents


  • Type
    Container 1 Type
    Container 1 Indicator
    Container 1 Barcode
    Williams pinball playfield design collection - MC1