The history of fruit machines

If it weren’t for the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, pub fruit machines might look very different.

To understand why, you have to look back to the middle of the 1890s when Charles Fey, an American inventor, started to release the first slot machines that looked similar to the pub fruit machines we play nowadays.

But his early games were not fruit machines – because they did not feature fruits. Instead, they used symbols associated with gambling and good fortune, including horseshoes, bells and playing card suits.

So how did we get from playing cards and horseshoes to cherries and lemons? It’s all down to a day that shook the world.

San Francisco, April 18th 1906

In 1894, Charles Fey had created a three-reel one-armed bandit called Liberty Bell which is widely considered to be the blueprint for most modern-day pub fruit machines.

But at 5:12am on April 18th 1906, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake hit San Francisco. More than 80% of the city’s buildings – including Charles Fey’s factory and nearly all his Liberty Bell one-armed bandits were destroyed either in the quake or the fires that followed.

This did not spell the end for Fey. By 1910, he had partnered with the Mills Novelty Company and together, they produced a sequel to Liberty Bell.

The new slot machine was called Operator Bell and featured fruits on its reels, a practice that has stayed in place for more than a century since.

Like modern pub fruit machines, later versions of Operator Bell were built into a wooden cabinet, and this helped to silence any noise from its inner workings, as well as making the fruit machines easy to move around.

Bells, fruits and bars

Fruit machines usually have the same few symbols: a selection of fruits, along with bells and bars, so where did this specific combination come from?

The answer is that Operator Bell machines had the option to vend flavoured chewing gum. The flavours available were lemon, orange, cherry and plum – the symbols we see on reels to this day.

The bell was kept from the earlier Liberty Bell machine, where it had represented a jackpot. And the bar symbol? That represents a stick of gum.

Candy was a popular prize in states where gambling for cash payouts was prohibited, so other slot machine manufacturers soon started using the popular fruit symbols on their machines too – and the rest is history.

When it comes to fruit machines for your pub, club, bingo hall or even common room, Manco Automatics provides the highest quality fruit machines for the best value in the North West. Call us today on 0161 870 7777 for more information.

Inspiring pool table room ideas

Many venues choose to devote an entire side room to their pool table, and this makes good sense if you have an area of roughly the right size.

But if you’re planning a pool room or billiards room in your pub, what are some of the best ideas for interior design and other features to add?

Here’s our pick of some of the best pool table room ideas that we’ve seen in venues, to keep your punters coming back for more.

1. Keep it simple

First and foremost, avoid clutter. You’ll want some side tables for players to put down their drinks and snacks, and some chairs or stools for them to sit down and for friends to spectate.

Other than that, it’s smart to keep the space around a pub pool table free from obstructions. Remove any trip hazards and you’ll make it easier for players to move around the table safely.

2. Bright and breezy

If you’re not able to provide suspended lighting immediately over the pool table, make sure you choose a bright colour scheme for your billiards room, which will help to flood the table with enough light to play by.

Manco Automatics supply pub pool tables in a wide range of different laminates and cloth colours – so whatever colour scheme you choose, we can make sure your pub pool table matches it too.

3. European or American?

Your choice of pool table can depend in part on whether you plan to provide European or American pool balls – so what’s the difference?

In Europe, the standard version of pool is Blackball, which originated in the UK and uses red and yellow balls with no numbers. In America and worldwide, the standard variation is Eightball, which uses the numbered ‘spots and stripes’ sets of balls.

If you’re going to offer American Eightball, which has become the common version on pub pool tables across the UK too, you could take the theme to extremes with an American Diner or Las Vegas theme for your pool room.

Make it match

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s in keeping with the rest of your premises, or very clearly designed to be different. A heavy American theme might be more suited to a sports bar, for example, whereas a bright and minimal aesthetic is ideal for upmarket establishments.

No matter what type of venue you operate, a coin-operated pool table can be a great source of additional revenue, while adding to the range of entertainment you offer – so give it the space it deserves and watch those takings grow.

We hope you’ve been inspired by our pool table room ideas and if you require a pool table for your venue, then view our wide range of tables designed to suit every style. Call us today on 0161 870 7777 or send us an email at