The first slot machine was invented by Charles Fey in the year 1895. Charles Fey was born in 1862 and died in 1944. He was a German immigrant that lived in San Francisco, California, and worked as a mechanic.
Although Fey invented the first real slot machine, there was an earlier invention in 1891, designed by Pitt and Sittman in New York. This game consisted of five drums displaying poker hands. There were ten cards on each drum. This means that there were 50 different cards used. The 10 of Spades and the Jack of Hearts were usually removed from the pack, in part to make the pack a round number and in the fact that the cards were high scoring cards meant that it also reduced the odds of obtaining a royal flush. Each spin cost players a nickel, but the game was not able to pay out money, and prizes were usually paid in kind depending on the location of the machine. In bars, winners received free drinks as prizes.
When Fey invented the first real slot machine, it was known as the Liberty Bell slot machine, and he had created it in his own basement. The slot machine was made of cast iron, with a Liberty Bell cast into the front of the slot machine, which weighed 100 pounds.
Symbols used on the reels were of course the Liberty Bell, card suits and horseshoes. Each of the three reels had all five possible symbols. Three Liberty Bells on a single payline symbolized a win, and the winning payout was 10 nickels (50 cents) which was considered a substantial sum in those days. When the three Liberty Bells were hit on a single payline, a bell would ring, although this was later removed because those not playing found it disturbing. The bell was later reintroduced when a jackpot was hit.
For some time, the first of the Liberty Bell slot machines was housed in the Liberty Belle Saloon and Restaurant in Reno, Nevada. The restaurant was owned by Fey’s grandchildren.
In 1907, Fey could not keep up with the demand for his slot machines so he teamed up with the Mills Novelty Company, and the Mills Liberty Bell was created. The Liberty Bell had some changes made to it and the Operator Bell was created in 1910. The changes included the first fruit symbols and a better coin acceptor. In 1915, the company produced slot machines in wooden cabinets, which were far lighter to transport than their cast iron predecessors.