General vintage slot machine related topics.
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Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby pennymachines » Sat May 14, 2016 6:20 pm

The Bell-Fruit Gum Company. So what do we know about this venerable and famous (sounding) company?

It's referenced many times on the internet, mostly by websites connected with modern gambling, but also general sites, and a few printed books, which cover the history and origin of fruit machines.

Wikipedia's 'Slot Machine' page tells us that, "The BAR symbol now common in slot machines was derived from an early logo of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company." It has a link to a page on said company, but this is a cul-de-sac. So what more can we discover? Here are some key "facts" I was able to glean from a google search of "Bell-Fruit Gum Company", which returned over 2000 results.
The Bell-Fruit Gum Company was a big player, and the modern bar symbol is a variant of their logo.
Also the symbol BAR, that is henceforth enough known and connected with slots came from the logo of the company that manufactured chewing gums, Bell-Fruit Gum Company
The Bell-Fruit Gum Company stole Charles Fey's original concept of money slot machines and created a slot machine lookalike that dispensed bubble gum.
The next stage in the slot machine history was the introduction of Fruit Machines which happened after co-operation with the Bell-Fruit Gum Company in 1912. The card symbols on the reels were replaced by fruit images
Herbert Mills of Chicago created his own machine, called the Operator Bell. Later, his company would merge with a gum manufacturer to become the Bell-Fruit Gum Company.
The Bell-Fruit Gum Company based in Chicago, begun manufacturing slot machines who offers gum as payment. The symbols were changed and replaced for fruits: cherries, melons and BAR symbols. The word BAR was originally the logo of Bell-Fruit Gum Company and thanks to marketing efforts of that company, this symbol still appears nowadays on slot machines.
These new symbols came about due to a cooperation between the manufacturer and the Bell-Fruit Gum Company in 1912. The extra thing here was the BAR, which resembled the fruit gum company’s logo. Payouts were made in gum.
Ever wondered why so many fruit machines have the BAR symbol? Very early models of fruit machines (pre and early 1900s) would give out winnings in the form of fruit flavoured chewing gum which had pictures of the flavours matching the fruit symbols on the reels. The BAR symbol is in fact an early logo of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company. The payment of food prizes like this meant that establishments could avoid laws against gambling (i.e. the payout was not in money).
So there you have it. The major Chicago-based Bell-Fruit Gum Company were pioneer manufacturers of chewing gum and fruit machines before taking over Mills Novelty Co. SkEpTiCaL

Amazing what you can learn on the internet. !!UHOH!!

Anyone seen one of these early Bell-Fruit Gum Co. slot machines which paid out food prizes? Or a Bell-Fruit chewing gum wrapper? !PUZZLED!

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby coppinpr » Sat May 14, 2016 9:31 pm

I don't have any evidence to prove it but years ago I saw some info on the fruit gums they sold and it appeared that the "BAR" logo was used on their multi flavored gum, supposedly their best flavor, hence the "BAR" advertised the best gum as being the best payout, makes some sense as advertising.

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby pennymachines » Sat May 14, 2016 9:33 pm

But who were "they"? !PUZZLED!
I put it to you sir, there never was a Bell-Fruit Gum Co. in Chicago making slot machines or chewing gum. :didact:
I suggest the company was the figment of someone's imagination who, seeing the Bell-Fruit-Gum jackpot logo on an old Mills machine, put two and two together to make five. This echoed around the internet until it became a well known factoid, gathering extra detail in the process.

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby jonesthegarage » Sun May 15, 2016 5:59 am

I've approached this from a slightly different angle given that Mills was based in Chicago and this was also the home of Zeno Gum (who were making gum for Wrigley before the latter eventually took them over).

In my perfect world I imagined that I would discover a manufacturer whose early fruit flavours of gum were cherry, plum, orange, melon etc, but sadly not.

Wrigley only produced Spearmint and Juicy Fruit prior to WW1 and Zeno only had blood orange as a flavour remotely connected to the symbols we have come to know.

I like the idea of "BAR" coming from the logo as there is a definite similarity with the lines top and bottom and I guess if punters were used to, and liked, the feature on Mills machines then other manufacturers would want to copy the symbol.

As to the existence or otherwise of Bell-Fruit Gum Company I'm with you, there seems to be no evidence to support its existence, perhaps our own forum member "Operator Bell" can trace his family tree for us!

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby coppinpr » Sun May 15, 2016 10:07 am

My personal view was that the the fruit symbols were a descendant of the gum ball dodge to avoid gambling laws, the reel strips relating to the flavors of gum ball that you might get dished out. The previous post reminded me that it was the juicy fruit flavor that was related to the BAR in the article I referred to in my previous post.

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby gameswat » Sun May 15, 2016 1:01 pm

Maybe you're looking in all the wrong places PM because I've never come across any of those attributions! This is from the Richard Bueschel book "Lemons, Cherries and Bell Fruit Gum". Considering the title, and that he started compiling the work in 1967 but didn't publish until 1995, he didn't have too much to say on the matter. Richard was an advertising executive in Chicago before retiring so this would have been an especially interesting part of the story for him.
Charles Fey had used the horseshoe and playing card symbols as used in the earliest counter wheel machines, and the first Mills Liberty Bell models used the same symbols. By 1910, in an effort to camouflage the gambling aspects of the Bell, Mills substituted symbols that theoretically promoted the varied flavors of the branded Bell Fruit Gum discharged by a vending attachment, or paid off over the counter. The fruit symbols soon became inseparable from the basic machine, forming a united design integrity all its own that made the symbols of the machine as readily recognizable as its form and substance. The Mills firm took the step of copyrighting their symbols, getting them legally recognised in 1910 (and carrying that copyright date on their fruit reels until the 1940s), with both Caille and Watling attempting to establish their own. But in the end it was the fruit on the Mills models, and specifically the Bel-Fruit-Gum bar symbol. that became the totems of the automatic payout slot machine, with some of these pieces of art surviving on slot machine reels to this day.

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby pennymachines » Sun May 15, 2016 2:38 pm

I was indeed looking in all the wrong places, but that was the point. For authoritative information on fruit machine history, Dick is your man. I was just intrigued how Chinese whispers produce such widespread misinformation on our favourite topic. It can also be found in several e-books on gaming by Nicolae Sfetcu, the Perfect Family Quiz by David Pickering, 2009 and the Encyclopedia of American Folklife by Simon J Bronner, 2006. The latter might be the prime source of the Bell-Fruit Gum Company myth.

It's easy to see how a notion formed that early slot machines avoided gambling restrictions by paying out gum. After all, trade stimulators gave players the chance to win extra goods when symbols depicting them came up on the reels. Of course, those machines didn't pay out; the proprietor did so over the counter. It's a small step from this to supposing that early payout slot machines did the same automatically. Because some vended flavoured gums, similar to those depicted on the reels, one might assume they were paid as prizes. We know otherwise: they paid cash when the right symbols lined up and vended gum regardless. The whole point was that the gum was not a prize. It was what you were supposedly purchasing with your coin. You got one every time, and its flavour was not determined by the outcome of spinning the reels. You weren't gambling, because you couldn't lose - you were guaranteed what you paid for! If you won some cash, that was just a bonus provided gratis by the machine.

I would imagine when Mills adopted this ruse they sourced the cheapest gum they could find from an existing manufacturer, rather than producing it in house. Is there any record of who made it? It would have been rather too fortuitous if they found a supplier called the Bell-Fruit Gum Company. The bell after all, was already an established winning symbol, following the example of Charles Fey's first ever three reel payout Liberty Bell slot machine. It seems more probable, if Bell-Fruit-Gum was a brand, that Mills created it. I doubt that it was, although we do know, as Dick Bueschel said, they claimed copyright on their reel strips in 1910. It also seems likely that they would have wanted to maximise profits by selling gum to operators. On the other hand, there would be no reason to buy from Mills if it was cheaper elsewhere.
9233673_6_l.jpg
Mills-LD.jpg
Mills brand candy
I don't think 'juicy fruit' had any special significance with regard to the jackpot symbol. That sounds like another factoid. The flavour was introduced in 1893, a few months ahead of spearmint by the Wrigley Company. Or so it says on the internet... !!UHOH!!

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby gameswat » Sun May 15, 2016 5:10 pm

Dave, a good 20% of what I've come across on the net is fantasy or highly incorrect so I take much of it with a grain of salt. The old adage is often correct "If it seems too good to be true it probably isn't!". I usually like to research the claims made by comparing with different sources until I'm fairly certain. And I gave up a while ago bothering to try and point out the flaws to the authors! I've sent many emails to eBay sellers who are making completely ridiculous claims. And maybe one or two out of thirty bothered to either change the description or add my email to the listing.

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby pennymachines » Sun May 15, 2016 5:37 pm

True, but we mustn't let them win.
Someone is wrong on internet.png

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Re: Bell-Fruit Gum Company: Fact or Fiction?

Postby 13rebel » Sun May 15, 2016 6:51 pm

Thank you Mr PM for your piece on how vending a gumball circumnavigated the gambling restrictions. It seems quite incredible that this ruse would appease the authorities. When did they stop making machines that vended gum? - when restrictions relaxed or perhaps when the ruse was sussed? In the 1930s the mayor of New York was taking a sledgehammer to machines and others were being dumped in the sea. I'm assuming this is after the gumball period or if not they were just ridding everything with a coin slot irrespective of its legality. Were manufacturers taking a chance that all will be okay? I realize that dark and mysterious things were happening at this time but just trying to get an understanding of the legalities timescale.


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