It all had to start somewhere, and when it comes to the original slot machine symbols, the story of how they have evolved into the spectacle that they are today is a symbol of a story worth telling. If you think you have a good enough hold on your desk, we will get started, just try not to get blow you away with what I am about to say.

We’re going to take it all the way back with this one.

Before the influx of exotic symbols, cinematic interludes, and booming John Williams soundtracks, there was just a person and their slot machine. Locked arm-to-arm in some sort of monetary arm wrestling match with the symbols as the arbiters of victory. Everything that the world of slots knows today is owed to the original raw talent of those spinning spinsters.

What were these symbols, and how did they emerge into the slot machine spotlight anyhow? Let’s take a look right now.

Looking at the Very First Slot Machine Symbols

Not surprisingly, the very first slot machine symbols where taken from playing cards, because let’s face it: slots are basically just cards put into a machine form.

  • Horseshoes
  • Diamond
  • Spade
  • Hearts
  • Cracked Liberty Bell

Looking at the first slot machine symbols, it would appear clubs was beat out by the great symbol of American freedom, the Freedom Bell (which, if you are wondering, is cracked in real life). Clubs are often omitted from games where the other symbols are allowed to stay.

Looking at the First Slot Machine

The first mechanical slot machines were invented in 1894 by car mechanic Charles Frey (1862-1944) of San Francisco. It consisted of three spinning wheels and the aforementioned symbols. The Liberty Bell takes the place of a top suit, and aligning three Liberty Bells would result in the highest payout from the machine: a wallet-busting total of 50 cents.

If you are interested in the history of gaming, be sure to check out the original Liberty Bell slot machine. It can still be seen be at the Liberty Belle Saloon & Restaurant in Reno, Nevada. Or, if you are interested in trying your luck on some slots right now, be sure to check out Silver Oak’s awesome selection of online slot machines.


Simon is an overactive gambler and the Staff Writer here at Silver Oak. He loves casino bonuses, online slots, and using the em dash too often. Currently, he rests his typing hands in Vancouver, Canada.