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Who Invented the Vending Machine?

Vending machines are ubiquitous in modern society. They have everything from candy to complete meals and hot and cold beverages. People can satisfy cravings just by inserting money or, in some cases, swiping a credit card, and retrieving the treat that caught their eye. This convenience has been around for more than 100 years, but it is hard to pinpoint one particular person who invented the vending machine.
Ancient Greece
  • Greek engineer and mathematician Hero of Alexandria invented the first remnant of a vending machine approximately 215 B.C. His machine, found in Egyptian temples, provided holy water to people who exchanged coins.
  • In the 1880s, the first coin-operated vending machine appeared in London, dispensing postcards. At the same time, English publisher and shop owner Richard Carlisle invented a book-dispensing vending machine. In 1888, the Thomas Adams Gum Co. placed a vending machine that dispensed Tutti-Frutti gum on a subway platform in New York City.
  • The Pulver Manufacturing Co., in 1897, invented a vending machine in which animated figures entertained customers when coins were dropped in the machine.
  • In 1902, the Horn & Hardart Baking Co. invented a vending machine that was used in a coin-operated Automat restaurant. In 1907, the first gumball machine was introduced.
Drink Machines
  • Vending machines dispensing sodas were invented in the 1920, with customers receiving their beverage in a cup. A decade later, machines for cold, bottled soft drink were invented, and the Vendolator Co. built vending machines for the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in 1937. Decades later, in 1978, water was added to soft drink vending machines.
Snack Machines
  • In the 1970s, Polyvend invented and introduced the first glass-front snack vending machine. In the 1980s, vending machines for frozen food were invented.
Coffee Machines
  • In the 1940s, the first coffee vending machine was invented, introducing the coffee break. Two decades later, inventors introduced the first single-cup coffee vending machine. In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, coffee-grinding vending machines hit the market, and vending machines with flavored coffees, espresso and cappuccino became commonplace.
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