Slot Machines: A Look into the path of our Estate Treasures.
Updated: Sep 1
1891 - The birth of the slot machine can be traced back to the late 1800s. The first-ever slot machine was produced by the New York-based company, Sittman & Pitt in 1891. The game had 5 drums with a total of 50 playing cards. The machine could be found in many bars and cost a nickel to play.
The player would insert their money and pull the lever to play. Payouts were achieved from lining up poker hands on the reels. In order to increase the house edge, 2 cards were removed from the standard 52 card deck, the ten of spades and jack of hearts. This way the odds to get a royal flush was dwindled by half. The machine did not have a direct payout mechanism, so winners got their prizes from the bar. The prizes were usually free drinks and cigars!
1887-1895 - Charles Augustus Fey is known as the creator of the first-ever mass-produced slot machine. There is no exact detail regarding the date on which his first machine was made, although it is believed to have happened between the years 1887 and 1895. Fey designed a machine that would allow automatic payouts. In order to do this, he needed to make it simpler to read a win for the machine. This was managed by replacing the current 5 drums with 3 reels. He also replaced the playing card system with a simpler 5 symbol system – hearts, diamonds, spades, horseshoes, and a liberty bell.
The biggest payout was awarded for 3 liberty bell symbols; hence, the machine was called the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell Slot machine had three spinning reels. On each of the reels, Diamond, spades, and heart symbols were painted. There was also an image of a cracked Liberty Bell. A spin that led to three Liberty Bells in a row have the biggest payoff. The amount paid out then is the equivalent of fifty cents. The original Liberty Bell slot machine is still held at the Liberty Belle Saloon and Restaurant in Reno, Nevada.
1902 - The demand for Liberty Bell slot machines was huge. Fey struggled to build it all in his small shop. At a point, gambling supply manufacturers wanted distribution rights for the Liberty Bell but Charles Fey refused to sell. In 1907 therefore, a Chicago manufacturer of arcade machines known as Herbert Mills started the production of slot machines.
He called his machine, Operator Bell which was an imitation of the Liberty Bell; however, Mills was the first person to add fruit symbols such as lemons, plums and cherries into the mix. One year later, the machines could be found in endless tobacconists, shops, bowling alleys, and salons.
The BAR symbol we recognize nowadays was introduced to the slot machine at this time and was based on the Bell-Fruit company logo.
How Did the Original Slots Work?
There were three metal hoops known as reels inside the cast iron slot machine. All the reels had ten symbols painted on them. Pulling a level spun the reels and when the reels stopped, a jackpot was awarded when a symbol lined up on the three reels. The payoff in coinage was then dispensed from the machine.
Electronic slots & Our Collection
The first major electronic gambling machine was the 1934 animated horserace machine known as PACES RACES. In 1964, however, an all-electronic gambling machine known as the “21” machine was built. Different electronic versions of gambling games followed including those for dice, roulette, horse racing, and poker. The first electronic slot, however, was built in 1975 by the Fortune Coin Company. N. Cerracchio, R. Greene, W. Beckman, J. Reukes, and L. Black from the company developed it in Las Vegas, Nevada. The machined featured a modified 19-inch colour screen from Sony and software that took charge of all machine functions. The original machine was housed in a cabin slot. The first video slot machine was placed at Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas but modifications were made to prevent cheating. It received approval from the state of Nevada
The history of slot machines is rich and shows people we should be thankful to for providing us with such powerful entertainment options like we have with the modern slots. We have two pieces of history is our upcoming Estate Treasures: Victorian Furniture, Silver/Gold Jewlery, Speakers & More
(Left) Game King Multi Game Slot Machine Touch Screen w/ Stand.
(Right) IGT S2000 Cigar Slot Machine
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Fey, Marshall. Slot Machines: A Pictorial History of the First 100 Years. Liberty Bell Books, 1997.
Kelly, Jack. A History of Slot Machines. 2