The invention of Fruit Symbols
The use of fruit symbols in slot machines is a tradition going back all the way to 1909. That year, the Industry Novelty Company started mass-producing machines in the style of Fey’s old Liberty Bell. Like everything else about the slot machine, fruit symbols were a necessity. The use of symbols in the shape of cherries, bananas, and grapes was an attempt on the part of Industry Novelty to disguise the betting aspect of their game. Where Charles Fey incorporated horseshoe and bell symbols to cover up the game’s similarity to illegal card games, Industry Novelty turned to a pack of chewing gum.
Industry Novelty’s earliest slot machines were manufactured as “chewing gum dispensers”. Each of the game’s reel symbols indicated a particular flavor that correlated to the symbols you lined up. To make the subterfuge really stick, some games were produced that actually did reward players with chewing gum. Of course, the vast majority were altered after-market to pay out coins.