Charles Fey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Liberty Bell Slot Machine memorial, San Francisco

Charles Fey (born August Fey in Vöhringen, Bavaria) (September 9, 1862 [1] – November 10, 1944) was a San Francisco mechanic best known for inventing the slot machine.

Career and Invention[edit]

As a young man, Charles Fey worked in France and London before emigrating at age twenty-three to New Jersey, where his uncle lived.[2]

Charles traveled all over the USA and settled in San Francisco, California where he started working at the Western Electric Works company in 1885.[3] Later he started his own company together with Theodore Holtz and Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Schultze: this company worked with electrical equipment and telephones.

In the 1880s, slot machines required an attendant to make a payout, usually tickets or tokens. Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Schultze's "Horseshoe Slot Machine" of 1893 was the first machine to include an automatic payout mechanism.[2] In 1895, Fey invented a modified version of the Horseshoe that paid out coins; this machine became incredibly popular.

Fey opened a slot machine workshop in 1896[4] or 1897.[2]

In 1898, he designed the "Liberty Bell Slot Machine," the most famous slot machine of its day. When three bells aligned, it paid fifty cents. Fey installed and managed his machines in saloons throughout San Francisco. Because gambling was illegal in California, Fey could not patent his device, leading to many competitors.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In San Francisco, Fey met Marie Christine Volkmar (1866-1942), but their courtship was interrupted by illness. In the early 1880s, Fey had been diagnosed with tuberculosis; in accordance with scientific knowledge at the time, he moved to a warmer climate (Mexico) for a few years, before returning to San Francisco for a series of creosote treatments, which were successful. He married Marie in 1889. The couple would have three daughters and one son.[2]

During this time, Fey changed his name from August to Charles, supposedly because he did not like the nickname "Gus."[2]


  1. ^ "California Death Index". Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wohlers, Tony and Eric Schmaltz. "Charles August Fey." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 3, edited by Giles R. Hoyt. German Historical Institute. Last modified March 25, 2014.
  3. ^ Charles Fey History and Biography Archived June 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Charles Fey at

External links[edit]