Charles Fey, the father of slot machines

Online slot machines are acquiring a new dimension with their presence in the digital environment. A definitive leap to the net for a classic game of chance that looks to the future with optimism in view of the infinite possibilities offered by online casinos. The wide variety of games of chance provided by online gambling operators has not been an impediment for slots to continue triumphing nowadays, despite the fact that their origin dates back to the end of the 19th century. Their adaptation to the Internet has been one of the keys to their great popularity among players. However, many of the regular slot machine players do not know its inventor, Charles Fey.

Charles Fey was born on November 9, 1862 in the small German town of Vohringen, in the federal state of Bavaria. August (his original birth name) was the youngest son of a humble and large family, as he had 15 siblings. At the age of 14, he began working in a Munich factory that made agricultural tools called the Farm Tool Factory while helping his older brother Edmund. A year later, little Charles ran away from home, due to the discipline imposed by his strict father and also because of the possibility of serving in the German army.

Charles Fey’s French, British and American Experience

At the age of only 15, Charles Fey settled in France to work as an intercom equipment manufacturer. It was a very brief French experience, as shortly afterwards he traveled to London, where he became a manufacturer of nautical instruments. The English capital was his home for five years, until he decided to follow in the footsteps of one of his uncles, who had emigrated to the state of New Jersey in the United States. At the age of 23 and with all the savings he had gained from his experiences in Europe, the German traveled to the North American country, where he settled with his uncle’s family.

When his family returned to Germany, Charles Fey decided to move to San Francisco, in the state of California. A city where he started from scratch in the year 1885. He definitively changed his official name from August to Charles and married a Californian woman named Marie Volkma, a woman with whom he had three daughters and a son during their marriage. In addition, the German began working at the California Electric Works, where he met Theodore Holtz. Shortly thereafter, they both quit their jobs to found their own company dedicated to the manufacture of telegraphs, telephones and electrical equipment.

The first slot machine in history

Despite founding his own company, Charles Fey decided to devote part of his time to the manufacture of a machine that changed the history of gambling. In 1895, the German introduced the Liberty Bell, the first slot machine in history, which has nothing to do with the play fortune casino slots that can be found today in the online casino. Its name refers to the Liberty Bell located in Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania, one of the great symbols of the American War of Independence. This primitive machine imitated the classic poker machines that offered gum, cigarettes and drinks as prizes to players. Unlike these poker games, Charles Fey’s invention offered prizes in the form of money.

The Liberty Bell was installed in a gambling hall in the city of San Francisco, where it was very popular among players. This slot machine also became famous at the time for being the first to have a slot to insert coins and also for having three reels with five symbols on each of the reels: hearts, swords, diamonds, horseshoes and the Liberty Bells. In the event that three of the correct symbols landed on the payline, the player won a 50 cent coin in cash. The great success at the time allowed Charles Fey to quit his job in 1896 to open his own slot machine factory, which he named Charles Fey and Company.

Charles Fey’s invention marked the beginning of a new era in gambling with slot machines as the main protagonists. Despite being the first, the German had to face imitators and competitors of his slot machine. One of the most prominent was Herbert Mills, a Chicago manufacturer who in 1907 presented the Operator Bell with its famous fruit symbols. A great competition that did not stop the restless spirit of the German, who during the following decades continued updating and innovating his slot machines. Today, gambling lovers can find the original Liberty Bell at the Liberty Belle Saloon and Restaurant in Reno, Nevada.

Nowadays, slot machines have ceased to be simple mechanical games to make the definitive leap to the digital era with the success of online casinos. A new scenario where players can enjoy a multitude of different themes present in online slot machines from the comfort of their homes and at any time of the day. These increasingly innovative machines have nothing to do with the primitive ones invented by Charles Fey. In spite of this, players owe much of their passion for slots to the contribution of the German, one of the most relevant figures in the history of gambling.