Where it all began: a look at the world’s first ever slot machines

  • Discover the humble origins of the world’s first slot machine
  • It was the first ever slot to dispense money

The first ever slot machine was named The Liberty Bell and was invented in San Francisco by a car mechanic named Charles Fey in 1895. The result was a 3-reel slot with 1 payline which is the great-great-grandfather to all modern slot machines.

The original 3 reels

The Liberty Bell was what would be described now as a classic 3-reel slot machine. Each reel was composed of a circular piece of metal with 10 symbols painted upon it. For the princely sum of a nickel (5 cents) punters could pull the handle at the side of the machine and watch the reels spin until each clicked into place.

First ever slot
Where it all began: the classic Liberty Bell, which kick-started the slot machine rush back in the 1800s

The symbols on this antique proto-slot were a diamond, a heart, a spade, a star, a horseshoe and a cracked Liberty Bell. The maximum payout on the machine was 50 cents which was awarded for landing three Liberty Bells.

Growing success

The popularity of the Liberty Bell swiftly grew in San Francisco and soon Charles was exporting his machine to other states across the US. Fey had his machines placed in bars and saloons and split the profits of his one armed bandits with the owners 50/50.

It was not long before other manufacturers of gambling machines were looking to Fey and his Liberty Bell to model their success.

Mills Liberty Bell

The next big name to emerge in the world of slots was the Mills Novelty Company, ran by Herbert Mills. Conflicting reports state that Mills either worked with Charles Fey or ‘borrowed’ the concept from Charles Fey, but either way, the Mills Novelty company soon had a Liberty Bell of their own. Mills innovated on the design, making it quieter and smoother and took slot machines to the next level.

Fruit Machines

As the popularity of these mechanical devices grew, the attention of legislators was drawn to them, and with them tougher restrictions came into force. Although the state of California banned his machine, Charles Fey continued to sell his mechanical slots in other states around the US.

First ever slots
As the popularity of slots increased, various manufacturers began improving the technology – here are some early examples

In a bid to circumnavigate gambling restrictions, Herbert Mills struck upon the idea of changing the symbols on his machines from card symbols to fruit symbols. These ‘fruit machines’ worked on the same mechanisms, but instead of having gambling symbols had delicious pieces of fruit on them. What could be healthier?

These machines and the later models on which they were based eventually found their way to Vegas, and then the world, but all of them are based on the humble Liberty Bell – the mechanical marvel created by a car mechanic from Frisco.

Get slap bang up to date and find out about the latest online slots with our no-nonsense guide here.

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