Good History of the Slot Machine
Slot machines have actually been around for more than 100 colorful years. This great casino game actually got its start on the West Coast of the United States. The one man who created the game of slots was Charles August Fey, he was a German immigrant who settled in San Francisco in the late nineteenth century, he is credited with the invention of the slot machine as we know it today. He was inspired by Gustav Schultze’s poker gaming devices of the 1890’s which were found mainly in saloons and paid only cigars and free drinks, Fey devised a mechanical device in 1899 built of cast iron, called the Liberty Bell. Fey’s original slot machine set precedent for the entire line of future slots, with three reels containing symbols such as the liberty bell’s, horseshoes, and stars. The term “Bell” soon became the universal reference to all three-reel slot machines. Fey’s first Draw Poker machine offered two plays for each nickel deposited, with an opportunity to win cigars for different card combinations. With pressure from players who wanted cash rewards, Fey eventually converted his machines to cash paying games, making them the first three-reel slot machines to offer coin payouts.
Beginning of Mass Slot Production
The designer of the slot machine Charles Fey started making deals with saloon owners to place slots in their businesses, with an agreement to split the profits 50/50. At this time, machines sat directly on bar tops, and returned 86% of coins, with a 14% profit left to be divided between Fey and the saloon owner. Originally, Fey worked from his basement, building the games by hand, sound familiar? Computer building was started in a garage with Bill Gates? In 1896, Fey opened a factory at 406 Market Street in San Francisco to meet the increasing demands from business owners. Of course with a great invention someone has to come along and invent the same but different invention. That was a businessman named Herbert Stephen Mills, an entrepreneur and successful manufacturer of various carnival games. He was inspired to copy Fey’s original design and Mills started his own manufacturing company in 1906 in Chicago, producing the Mills Liberty Bell, High Top and Golden Falls, these games became very popular immediately, and were soon sold across the country to saloons, bowling alleys, pool parlors, and other businesses. The Mills Company produced the first popular floor machine, called the Kalamazoo. This game gave players the option to insert one to five coins at a time, and paid up to $1.00. What a time when $1.00 was a lot of money! The Klondike, manufactured by Fey was a smaller version of the wheel machines, and sat directly on bar tops. Sound familiar we see these in almost every bar, bowling alley, and some restaurants around every Town, City and State these days.
The Roaring ‘20s
By the year 1927, the Mills Novelty Company became one of the nation’s largest factories, employing over 1,000 people. There are many reasons for Mill’s rapid success. He not only boosted sales through lowering prices, mail-order catalogues, and increased advertising, but also by making the games more aesthetically pleasing to the players. The Mills machines had a glass window in the front of the game so that the player could actually see the monetary award waiting to gush out to the lucky winner. Players were also able to see three rows of symbols, which let the player see just how close he had actually come to winning. Within forty years, over a half million Mills slot machines had been sold. The 1920s also marked the beginning of jackpot displays, allowing players to see large amounts of money waiting to be won. The coins were visible through one or two windows positioned in the front of the machine. During this time cast iron machines were converted to aluminum machines as well. Within just thirty years of Fey’s invention, over a million slot machines had been manufactured worldwide. Slot machines had started to become a very serious business.