Have you ever been curious to know who invented the brilliant innovation that is the slot machine while you were spinning the reels? If so, here’s a brief rundown of the history of where it all began and the man behind the slot machine that has grown to be a casino staple and a gambler’s favourite to play at Wizard Slots.
The man who first invented the slot machine is none other than Bavarian-born Charles August Fey. America, as the land of the free with its entrepreneurial spirit, has always many technical inventors and innovative minds but many will argue that Charles August Fey has been one of the most influential on American business, culture and technology through his invention of the slot machine. He was born in the winter of 1862, in a town called Vöhringen in Bavaria and lived to see his invention become a success, passing away in California, a state he grew to call home and where he lived until his death on the 4th November 1944. Charles August Fey came to the USA when he was in his prime at the age of 23 but had been working on his inventions and technology projects since he was a young teenager. He was known as an inventor and a traveller, first living in England and France as a young man before he made it across the pond to America.
This first slot machine he ever constructed was in 1894 and even then it was evident that he had a revolutionary grip on mechanics and technology. Shortly after this Charles August Fey built another machine that is more in the likeness of the classic slot machines we would recognise today. It was a three-reel machine called Liberty Bell which automatically paid out upon a win and Liberty Bell still forms the mechanics of how modern-day slot games work.
The invention of the slot machine was a marriage made in heaven between technology and entertainment and the success of the slot machines owes a debt to the perseverance of Charles August Fey and his hard work in continuing to refine and perfect the slot machines he invented. Charles August Fey’s main aim was to capitalise on the opportunity to perfect the slot machine just as the entertainment industry in America was on the up, especially in California and San Francisco.
Finally in the late 1920s, Charles August Fey became the first slot machine manufacturer who managed to bring to market a three-reel slot machine which accepted dollar coins. Charles August Fey remained an innovator in the industry throughout his life and inspired many innovators both in the US and abroad to invent new slot machines and games. The first slot machines were not like the ones we know and love today, although Charles August Fey invented slot machines which could accept coins, the machines he invented could not pay out winnings. Instead, a casino attendant or barkeeper would be nearby and on hand to give the player the payout if they won and a lot of the machines were in bars or cigarette store, so instead of actual money, the players would get tokens which they could then use to buy cigarettes or drinks! It wasn’t until 1894 that Charles August Fey invented a machine with an automatic payout. This 4-11-14 machine was so popular that he quickly set to work to create more machines and shortly launched his own company called Charles Fey & Company which was extremely successful and soon moved to San Francisco’s flourishing business district.
In 1898, he made another breakthrough, inventing the world’s first Card Bell slot machine which had three reels with a staggered stop and once again with an automatic payout. This slot machine features poker cards which were very popular with players at the time and player’s loved this thrilling game of suspense. This game soon needed a facelift and to bring it into modern times, the symbols on the reels were developed and changed from suits to new and exciting symbols which included a star and bells and was renamed the Liberty Bell slot machine. Many classic styles slot games still feature stars and bells, paying homage to one of the first slot machines. An interesting fact is that the starts represent the starts on the United States flag and it was named in honour of the symbol of freedom – ‘Liberty’. This slot game had a level on the side of it which is why some people nickname slot machines “one-armed bandits” as in order to spin the reels on the slot machine, the player would need to pull down the arm/lever.
The Liberty Bell slot machine had a total of ten symbols on each of the reels and ten stops, giving a total of 1,000 different combinations. Other symbols associated with luck were included on the reels, including horseshoes as well as card symbols like diamonds, spades and hearts. The Liberty Bell’s RTP was around 86%, which is quite low in comparison to the online slot games which are played now! If a player was to be lucky enough to line up three bells on the three reels, they would win a whole 50 cents!
This style of slot machine continued to be extremely popular with players and dominated the gambling and entertainment industry until advancements in technology brought us the age of the internet and cutting edge graphic design. Although the slot machine was popular with gamblers, it wasn’t always a smooth ride for Fey and his inventions, many people hated the idea of slot machines, believing they were corrupting San Francisco and many anti-gambling crusades were launched in an attempt to rid San Francisco of Fey’s inventions.
Well, there you have it, an interesting history lesson which might make you want to play some of the classic retro style slot machines which are available both in brick and mortar casinos as well as online casinos!
To read more on topics like this, check out the Money category.