Slot machines are so much part of our lives today in every shape and form, that it’s hard to believe that they were invented just over 100 years ago. And while it has always been assumed that slot machines are an all-American invention, it might surprise many to learn that the man behind the machine, Charles Fey, was actually a Bavarian immigrant.
Who was Charles Fey?
The youngest of 16 children, August Fey decided at the age of 23 to leave his native Europe and seek his fortune in the United States. Delighted by the size and opportunities in the country, Fey travelled its length and breadth, before settling in California where he changed his name to Charles.
The Birth of the First Slot Machine
Fey – ever the adventurer – quit his job at the California Electric Works Company and, together with his colleague Theodore Holtz, started his own company that manufactured phones and electrical equipment. In 1895, Charles Fey created the first slot machine, known as the Liberty Bell, based on the lottery game, Policy. A year later, Fey was ready to open his first slot machine factory.
The Liberty Bell
The creation of the first slot machine in the world opened up a magical era for the gambling industry. The game soon became hugely popular because it offered, for the first time, cash payouts and the top jackpot was a $5 win (a far cry from the millions that can be won in online progressive slot games these days!). The original machine weighed a staggering 100 pounds and was made of pure cast iron. The three reel format of the game was so popular that it remained the standard format of all subsequent slot games for decades after the Liberty Bell was invented. Today, the original Liberty Bell is housed in a unique museum in Reno, run by Fey’s own grandchildren.
Slot Machines Today
The slot machine has come a long way since Charles Fey made his dream a reality. Today, there are thousands of different types of slot games that can be found on a casino floor or at online casino sites. These games vary in size, themes, payouts, bonus features, reels and pay lines. However, one thing remains in common – they are just as fun now as they were when Charles Fey first invented them!