The History by slot-machine-resource.com

The History of Vintage Slot Machines in the USA

Most experts classify vintage slot machines as any machine dating pre-1950s; however some say that anything before the 1970s is considered vintage. What typifies the pre-1950s slots is the fact that they have no lighted or plastic fronts. Most of them are made of metal and wood, using no electronics whatsoever.

Poker machines existed as early as 1890 and were extremely popular in saloons and cigar stores. In deference to the law of the times, most of these machines dispensed tokens for candy, gum and cigars instead of cash winnings. These poker machines enjoyed immense popularity until the First World War.

Most of the machines of the time and in the years following the turn of the century were made by a handful of companies. Machines made by Mills Novelty, the Caille Brothers, Watling Manufacturing of Chicago and Jennings were the first available, and are considered the basis of present day slot machines.

In 1897, Charles Fey, a German-born immigrant to the USA, produced the “Liberty Bell” which was a three-reel, automatic cash payout slot machine. Fey substituted the typical playing cards that were used in poker machines, with symbols that included suit symbols, horseshoes and… liberty bells. The “Liberty Bell” was the first slot machine to accept nickels and trade checks. Fey went on to produce three of the most popular slot machines in US history – the three-reel slot, draw poker and the dollar slot. Other companies soon jumped onto the bandwagon and started producing novelty slot machines at a remarkable pace, breaking Fey’s monopoly on the three-reel bell slot.

Between 1900 and 1909, slot machines were all the rage. However, this all came to a grinding halt when gaming machines were outlawed in San Francisco. Two years later, Nevada joined in the ban and by 1911, there existed a ban on slot machines throughout the entire state of California. Not to be deterred by the law, many companies simply changed their vending machines to dispense gum instead of nickels and placed them in regular gambling retreats.

From 1919, the year of Prohibition, slot machines soared in popularity yet again. These were the Roaring Twenties – years of decadence, wealth and a couldn’t-care-less attitude. Because of the prosperity of the times, nickel slots soon became dime and quarters slots, even moving up to half dollars. This Golden Age of gambling continued even after Prohibition ended in 1933, and even the Great Depression did not severely impact the industry.

Many companies turned to originality during the Depression years to try and keep their businesses going. Some of the most entertaining slot machines were developed during this time period, including the “Midget Derby” – a cash payout horse race slot machine and the “Scale and Strength Testers” (produced by Fey’s). Another first by Fey’s was the “Silver Dollar” slot, which was the first machine to accept dollar coins.Type your paragraph here.


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