Press Release

Games of Chance: Gambling Devices of the Mechanical Age

CONTACT: Charles Schuler
Director of Communications
San Francisco International Airport


Games of Chance: Gambling Devices of the Mechanical Age
New exhibition presents more than sixty examples of early gambling devices, including the first automatic-payout, three-reel slot machine

SAN FRANCISCO - December 8, 2016 - In no part of the world did gambling take place so openly and on such a large scale than in San Francisco during the Victorian era.  The city’s residents were largely pioneers or one generation removed from those who risked all to relocate and gamble on a new life in the West.  At the beginning of the twentieth century, more than 3,000 gambling devices operated openly, enticing customers from busy sidewalks into the saloons and cigar stores that proliferated throughout San Francisco.  This exhibition illustrates the technological and artistic innovations of more than sixty mechanical gambling machines—from the earliest devices relying on simple clock mechanisms and a payout by the bartender, to automatic slot machines with elaborate carved-wood, cast-iron, or painted-aluminum bodies—each vying for the attention of the next player willing to drop a coin and try their luck.


All objects are courtesy of Joe Welch American Antique Museum in San Bruno, California.


Visit Online Exhibition for more information. #GamesOfChance @SFOMuseum


Games of Chance: Gambling Devices of the Mechanical Age is located in Terminal 3, Boarding Area F from December 10, 2016, to June 18, 2017.  The exhibition is located post-security and is only accessible to passengers ticketed for travel through Terminal 3.  There is no charge to view the exhibition.


SFO Museum

SFO Museum was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 for the purposes of humanizing the Airport environment, providing visibility for the unique cultural life of San Francisco, and providing educational services for the traveling public.  The Museum was granted initial accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 1999, reaccredited in 2005, and has the distinction of being the only accredited museum in an airport.  Today, SFO Museum features approximately twenty galleries throughout the Airport terminals displaying a rotating schedule of art, history, science, and cultural exhibitions, as well as the San Francisco Airport Commission Aviation Library and Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum, a permanent collection dedicated to the history of commercial aviation.  To browse current and past exhibitions, research our collection, or for more information, please visit  Follow us on,, or

About San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 45 international cities on 39 international carriers. The Bay Area's largest airport connects non-stop with 79 cities in the U.S. on 13 domestic airlines.  SFO is proud to offer upgraded free Wi-Fi with no advertising.  For up-to-the-minute departure and arrival information, airport maps and details on shopping, dining, cultural exhibitions, ground transportation and more, visit Follow us on and