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The Slots Game Had Its Start in San Francisco

Author: Dolly Gambler

What we recognize now as a slots game originated in the city of San Francisco. It was there that a gentleman named Charles Fey began work on his own device, using spare time in his mechanic's shop. The San Francisco Chronicle reportedly wrote a story detailing a demonstration Fey made of his machine in 1887. If that was indeed the case, then Fey's machine actually pre-dated that which was invented by Sittman and Pitt in 1891. However, there are conflicting reports about the origin of Fey's slots game, with some claiming it came as late as 1897.

It was called a "slot machine" then, and that terminology brought its share of confusion, since machines that sold cigarettes were also known by that name. Of course, that is because the customer would put coins in a "slot," pull a lever and effect the transaction. Over the course of time they would gather enough strength to be "branded" by that name all by themselves.

The three-reel slots game was Fey's creation completely, as far as history can tell.

Originally, each of the three reels had ten different symbols, and there was a strong association with playing cards, as there were spades, diamonds and hearts, with some horseshoes and bells thrown in for good measure.

There was another symbol that was familiar to all players, yet quite unique for the slots game. It was a cracked Liberty Bell. So strongly did players identify this symbol with the slots game itself that it became known as the "Liberty Bell machine."

When the player put a coin in the slot, the machine became active. Then a lever was pulled, and the three reels started to move. They continued to spin until coming to an automatic stop, and for a spin to be a winner, the combination would have to appear across the single payline in the center. The object of this slots game was to get three Liberty Bells across that payline, which produced the grand total of 50 cents. This set the stage for all slots games that came after it.