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Slot Machine History

Portrait of Charles Fey

The first mechanical slot machine was the Liberty Bell, invented in 1895 by Charles Fey(1862-1944), a San Francisco car mechanic. Fey's slot machine had three spinning reels, with diamonds, spades, hearts and one cracked Liberty Bell painted around each reel.

Three bells in a row produced the biggest payoff, a grand total of fifty cents or ten nickels.A bell would ring when a player hit a winning combination. It also featured a cast iron case and had cast iron feet with toes.

In 1907 Fey teamed up with The Mills Novelty Company who manufactured the "Mills Liberty Bell." In later models the toes were scrapped and replaced with ornate decorated feet.

In 1910, the Mills Novelty Company introduced a slight variation to the Liberty Bell, the Operator Bell. This machine had a gooseneck coin entry and featured the now famous fruit symbols, which are still used in many of today's slot machines. These cast iron slots were heavy, weighing over 100 pounds.

Over 30,000 of these machines were manufactured. The era of cast iron machines ended in 1915, when Mills introduced slot machines with less expensive wooden cabinets.

In the early 1930s, the Mills Novelty Company made a number of additional changes to its line of slot machines that revolutionized the industry. First, it designed its machines to be much quieter.

That's why its' 1930 machines are referred as the "silent bells". To make machines memorable and enticing to players, Mills introduced a series of cabinet designs that were striking and colorful, each with its own theme. The first in early 1931 was the Lion Head.

In late 1931, it was the War Eagle and the Roman Head, and in 1933, it was the Castle Front. It was during the 1930's that slot machines began to become very popular across America, and in the late 1940's Bugsy Siegel added machines to his Flamingo Hilton hotel in Las Vegas. Originally installed as a way to entertain the wives and girlfriends of high rollers, revenue from the slot machines soon matched that of the table games.

The original Liberty Bell slot machine can be found at the Liberty Belle Saloon & Restaurant located at 4250 S. Virginia, Reno, Nevada.

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Picture of Liberty Bell Slot
Picture of Liberty Bell Slot Machine

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