Fruit Slots: The Original Design of Slot Machines


Fruit machines are one of the most popular types of slots and are the first thing that comes to mind when you think of old-school gambling. The pure experience and simple gameplay they offer have ensured they have not lost their popularity. But have you ever wondered how these games came about and why they got the name “fruit slots”? Below, we answer this question: you can also find a list of the best casinos to play classic slots at

History of Fruit Machines

In the 1880s, pubs in the United States had many automats, each being used for a different purpose. New York-based company Sittman & Pitt has created a brand-new device by combining a popular game with these automats. This device was based on poker and resembled a cash register in appearance. It had a total of 5 reels and contained a 52-card poker deck. By tossing a coin, players could spin reels and make a different card appear on each. If these cards were a valid poker hand, they would win a prize that they could use at that pub (for example, a voucher for a free drink).

This device became very popular but broke down very often and was very expensive to manufacture and maintain. Moreover, anti-gambling laws were very strict at the time, and the fact that it contained poker cards made this device a form of “gambling”. Sittman & Pitt ceased production (years later, this machine would form the basis of modern video poker machines).

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An entrepreneur named Charles Fey loved these devices but was aware of the problems. Therefore, he decided to create something new by making some changes to the original design. This time, he put 3 reels instead of 5 in the device and used a series of easily recognizable symbols instead of poker cards. These symbols included diamonds, horseshoes, bells, and numbers—contrary to popular belief, Fey did not use fruit pictures.

This is how the world’s first slot machine appeared. Fey named the machine the “Liberty Bell” and produced 100 in total. He sold all of them to pubs in San Francisco. Fey could have been one of the United States’ first millionaires, but that was not possible for two reasons. To begin with, Fey did not get a patent for his design – anyone could manufacture the same device with very simple modifications. As a matter of fact, almost every company in San Francisco had started to produce and sell devices that were very similar to the original design. Historical records show that by 1909, there were more than 3,000 slot machines in San Francisco, of which only 100 were manufactured by Fey.

The second problem was the great San Francisco earthquake of 1909. The city was almost completely destroyed in the earthquake and the fires made almost every building unusable. Of the 100 machines Fey built, only four have survived: the others are believed to have been destroyed during the earthquake. Charles Fey could not recover after this disaster, but his invention lived on. 

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From Bells to Fruits

In 1910, a company called “Industry Novelty” decided to use Fey’s invention to market its fruit gums. This was not unexpected as the original design was used in many states to award prizes other than real money (due to anti-gambling laws). However, Industry Novelty has made the design a little simpler and more aesthetically appealing, replacing the symbols with fruit images inspired by its gum flavors. And, as expected, the machine only gave gums as a reward.

This current design inspired another company called “Mills Novelty”. Mills Novelty has added a big prize called the “jackpot” to the game and made it possible to win a prize with different combinations of symbols. Fruit slots, in their modern sense, first appeared in the 1930s and became widespread in Nevada, which was the only state where gambling was legal at the time. Since then, they have remained one of the most popular games in casinos.