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Slots History: The Invention of Liberty Bell Slot Machine

Liberty Bell, the first slot machine (other names include "fruit machine" (British English) and "one-armed bandit"), was created in 1895 by Charles Fey, car mechanic from San Francisco. The popularity of Liberty Bell slot machine resulted in the continued use of the three-reel slots model for several decades. Slot machines have gone through different modifications in the course of slot history, but the original Liberty Bell slot machine is still seen as a standard for slot machine technology.

Slot machines precursors

In fact, Liberty Bell slot machine wasn't the first machine working with coins. The other machines were designed as mechanical counterparts for card games like poker (they were often called "poker machines" and thus can be seen as the predecessors of modern video poker machines) and offered prizes like drinks, cigarettes or chewing-gums.

Payouts of food prizes were used as a way to avoid anti-gambling laws, which caused the ambiguous treatment of the courts towards vending machines sometimes resulting in judicial precedents. For instance, a vending machine giving out mints was claimed to be a gambling device as it could give the user tokens that could be changed for mints.

How Liberty Bell worked

The Liberty Bell slot machine had three reels with pictures of three card suits (diamonds, hearts and spades), horseshoes and a cracked Liberty Bell symbol imprinted on them. Due to the slot machine technology, to spin the reels one had to pull the lever. After each spin the reels stopped on different combinations of symbols. With three same symbols coming up in a row the player received coins. Three Liberty bells coming out in a row brought the biggest payout of 50 cents or 10 nickels. When the winning combination came out, the bell rang and the machine ejected coins.

Growing popularity of slot machines

The fact that Liberty Bell slot machine brought money prizes, it quickly gained vast popularity first in San Francisco and later in other states. Charles Fey invented other slot machines - Draw Poker, Klondike and Three Spinde. He also invented trade check separator that distinguished real coins from the fake ones.

Liberty Bell slot machine became the prototype for the other renowned slot machine invented in 1910 by Mills Novelty Company - Operator Bell. Operator Bell featured fruit symbols that are now used in most modern slots. In 1915 Mills introduced new slot machines with wooden frames instead of the previous cast iron models, which made the slots cheaper and less heavy. Other innovations included the removal of the bell in 1930, which made the slots much quieter and resulted in the name "silent bells".

The growing popularity of Liberty Bell slot machine initiated protests from the anti-gambling advocates. This resulted in the prohibition to use Liberty Bell in the early 1900s, first in San Francisco and then in California and Nevada. Nevertheless, Charles Fey continued slot machines manufacturing for other states. By 1944, the year Charles Fey died, slot machines became the most popular attraction in Las Vegas casinos. The classical Liberty Bell slot machine is still exhibited at Liberty Belle saloon in Reno, Nevada as a historic artifact.