Slot machines were invented by Bavarian Charles Fey in the late 1880s. He introduced the “reel slots,” much like we know slots to be today, with Theodore Holtez in 1899. The Liberty Bell was the first game placed in saloons in San Francisco and became an instant success. Along with the three reels, it had a large handle on the right side of the machine, a coin acceptor and a pay out schedule. With the earthquake of 1906, Fey lost his factory and monopoly on the slot machine market. In 1909, Herbert Stephen Mill from Chicago got his foot in the market when he made Mill’s Liberty Bell with ten more symbols to each reel. In 1909, San Francisco outlawed slot machines with Nevada following suit a year later. California said no to slot machines in 1911.
Fey’s great grandson’s opened The Liberty Belle Saloon & Restaurant in 1958 (located at 4250 South Virginia Street in Reno, Nevada) It has a modest collection of antiques, and you can see the old slot machines in the restaurant as well as on the online photo tour.
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If you want to know more about the history of slot machines, check out Slot Machines: America’s Favorite Gaming Device by Marshall Fey.