The Powerhouse acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the ancestral homelands upon which our museums are situated. We respect their Elders, past, present and future and recognise their continuous connection to Country.
2007/213/1 Poker machine, Mills Silent Bell 'War Eagle', metal / timber / paper / plastic / glass, by Mills Novelty Company, United States of America, 1931-1938. Click to enlarge.

Mills 'War Eagle' poker machine

The Mills War Eagle is one of the most significant machines in the history of gambling technology. The Mills Silent Bell machines of the 1930s established the distinctive aesthetic of casino gaming. In 1931 the Mills Novelty Company, the largest manufacturer of gaming machines, introduced its Silent Bell series featuring a quieter, more reliable three-reel mechanism. The Silent Bell also increased the number of possible combinations to 8,000.

This mechanism remained in use for more than 35 …


Object No.


Object Statement

Poker machine, Mills Silent Bell 'War Eagle', metal / timber / paper / plastic / glass, by Mills Novelty Company, United States of America, 1931-1938

Physical Description

Poker machine, Mills Silent Bell 'War Eagle', metal / wood / paper / plastic / glass, made by Mills Novelty Company, United States of America, 1931-1938

A three-reel mechanical poker machine with a cast alloy and oak case and a lever on the left hand side. The design on the machine features a stylised eagle motif painted in the original colour scheme of red, black and yellow. The playing reels and payout guide at top right feature the following symbols: stars, hearts, triangles, kangaroos, shields and a Maltese cross. The machine has '1s' cast beside the coin slot, and was made to operate with one shilling coins.


The machine's serial number is 287655.



640 mm


400 mm


380 mm



The Mills Novelty Company was founded by Mortimer Birdsul Mills, a Canadian who moved to Chicago in 1878. Mills designed and patented several railway engineering innovations before patenting and producing a coin-operated cigar vending machine in 1891.

In 1897 Mills began manufacturing one of the first successful coin-operated gaming machines, a large roulette-style game named the Owl; the Mills Novelty Company was founded the same year. By 1899 the company had 500 employees and was producing 13 types of gaming machines as well as numerous vending and amusement arcade machines.

Marshall Fey's invention of the three-reel automatic payout poker machine transformed gaming technology. In 1906 Mills joined other manufacturers in producing copies of Fey's machine, even replicating its 'Liberty Bell' title. By this time Mills had branch offices in most major US cities, giving the archetypal gaming machine national popularity; 30,000 were produced by 1914.

Until the 1960s, the Mills company dominated the poker machine industry in the US, as well as exporting machines to Europe, Australia and elsewhere. Its heyday was the 1920s and 1930s, capitalising on the illegal gaming boom which accompanied Prohibition in the USA, followed by the creation of the Nevada casinos during the 1930s.

Other companies, such as Caille Bros and WO Jennings, were more innovative designers of games and technology. In contrast Mills's strategy of creating novel case designs for standard three-reel machines, notably the Silent Bells of the 1930s and the High Tops of the 1950s, proved more lucrative.

During the 1960s increased competition, notably from the innovative Bally company, saw Mills introduce illuminated cases and four-reel machines. However Bally's electro-mechanical machines, featuring motorised pay-out hoppers, dominated the industry until the introduction of video machines during the 1980s. Despite a merger with long-time rival Jennings, Mills lost market share to Bally. The company's last machines were produced in 1979.

This machine was apparently manufactured for export as it has '1s' cast beside the coin slot and was made to operate with Australian one shilling coins.



This machine was one of those collected by the West Belconnen Leagues Club. It was displayed on loan in the PHM Gambling in Australia exhibition during 2004-2006 and later purchased by the Museum.


Credit Line

Purchased 2007

Acquisition Date

12 December 2007

Cite this Object


Mills 'War Eagle' poker machine 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 January 2022, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Mills 'War Eagle' poker machine |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 January 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}