The slot machine has come a long way from Brooklyn and San Francisco. Don’t miss the entertaining evolution of the slot.
Let the Fun Begin
There are a lot of things that have had to come together, and especially have been invented, for us to be able to enjoy playing at an online casino in 2022. Many would say the evolution of the internet is the key to all of it, which of course I can agree with but only to a certain degree.
The fact is that none of it would be possible, internet or not, without the invention of the first ever slot machine.
Considering it is the biggest reason behind this way of entertainment, perhaps we should all know a bit more about its history. After all, how much do you really know about the humble beginnings of the slot machine?
Welcome to Sittman and Pitt
It is hard to imagine the history of slots started way back in the late 1800s. In order to take a deeper dive into the origins of this mad success of spinning reels and find out when slot machines were invented, we will begin by traveling back to 1891 and take a look at the company Sittman and Pitt.
Sittman and Pitt were the creative minds behind the precursor to the video slots we can enjoy today, and they did so from a little place called Brooklyn, New York.
Based on Poker
You might be surprised by the fact that the slot machine was based on Poker and included 5 reels and 50 different card symbols. It didn’t take long for it to become a very popular machine and you could find it inside a lot of bars in New York.
At the time, all you needed to play was a nickel to stick in the slot.
Pick Up Your Winnings at the Bar
As great as it may sound, everything wasn’t quite fine and dandy. First of all, the machine lacked the mechanism for players to get paid right then and there when they won. Instead, winners had to get to the bar to collect their reward.
The problem was that the establishments couldn’t pay you in money so instead of cash, you would get free drinks, cigars or whatever else they were able to offer you.
Can you imagine that being the case today?
Who is Charles August Fey?
If you have ever played Poker, you know how many ways there are to get a win. This made it even more difficult to create a machine that would pay out automatically.
This is the time in history when a guy named Charles August Fey took matters into his own hands in order to come up with a solution to the problem.
Let’s Hear the Liberty Bell Slot Machine
Charles Augustus Fey often gets credit for being the one behind the first slot machine but the problem is that nobody has been able to pinpoint the exact time for it, only that it is somewhere between 1887 and 1895.
Fey opted for a much more basic machine that did in fact have an automatic slot machine payout mechanism.
For this to be possible, Fey had to remove two of the reels, resulting in three reels instead of five. Did this solve the problem? Not really.
The three reels were still too complicated for payouts so instead of the 50 card symbols used in the Poker machine, Fey decided to only use five different symbols. The chosen few were:
- The Liberty Bell
If you could score three Liberty Bells, it would give you the biggest win. This is why the first-ever slot machine was named Liberty Bell!
Sorry, Gambling Is Not Allowed
Even after his latest accomplishments, problems kept popping up for Charles Augustus Fey. He was living in San Francisco at the time and gambling happened to be banned in the state of California.
This meant that Fey was unable to apply for a patent for his precious design. As you can imagine, other companies jumped on the chance to copy his life’s work.
You Get a Liberty Bell, You Get a Liberty Bell, Everyone Gets a Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell became such a success that despite the ban, Fey couldn’t keep up with all the demands that came in from people in other parts of the country that wanted to get their hands on the slot machine.
Since the competition was able to copy the Liberty Bell, it grew rapidly and many started to see a profit from Fey’s hard work. Poor guy!
The Herbert Mills Company was one of them in 1907 and they didn’t even think twice about using the same name! Clearly the Liberty Bell had become a household name but it’s a pretty shitty move by The Herbert Mills Company and a complete rip off.
It didn’t even take a year before you could find a Liberty Bell machine all over America. I’m talking saloons, bowling alleys, barber shops, tobacco stores, you name it. Even brothels profited from having them and Liberty Bell’s place in the history books was secured.
Next Stop Fruits
The next step in the evolution of slots is the appearance of the fruit machine. To this day, the use of fruit symbols are very common but few know why and how they made their way onto the spinning reels.
In 1902, there was an official ban made on slot machines all across the United States. Did this put an end to production? Hardly! It did however put a hold on cash prizes and if that was no longer an option, they had to come up with something else. Let’s fruit things up!
Fruit Flavored Gum
So, the appearance of fruit symbols had nothing to do with a country wide Vitamin C deficiency. Instead, the new machines came with a gum machine hooked up to it. We all know how gum often has a fruit flavor and this is why cherries, melons, lemons and oranges were used as symbols.
I know winning chewing gum instead of cash is a poor compensation but it worked at the time.
What is the BAR symbol?
Besides fruit, one of the more recognizable slot symbols is the BAR. I have been asked about this symbol many times and the fact is that it was inspired by the logo of the Bell Fruit Gum Company.
Herbert Mills came out with a slot machine in 1907 called the Operator Bell, which was found all over the country within just a year. The new fruit concept kept the interest going among players, weirdly enough, and more and more companies came out with their own version of fruit machines.
Come Back for More
There’s more to the story of slot machines and I will tell you all about the emergence of One Arm Bandits and other crucial developments later this week.
In other words… stay tuned.