Trade stimulators were counter top machines widely used to encourage shoppers to indulge in a game of chance. They became popular in American saloons during the 1880s, their use spreading to cigar, confectionery and general stores.
Produced in a wide range of designs, they were developed during the same era as slot machines and were operated by inserting a coin and pulling a lever, the player standing to win prizes of cigars, cigarettes, candy and other goods if a winning combination came up. During periods when gambling was prohibited or in states where gambling was illegal, these machines could be used with little fear of prosecution.
Trade stimulators are one of the strangest areas of coin operated slot machine history. At their peak they often took the form of a true one arm bandit style slot machine yet remained so different in their usage that they are never looked at as being the same as a standard slot machine.