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

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.