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Vending Machines Recent History
Prior to the recent archaeological uncovering of these ancient vending machines, it was believed that the first vending machine was created in 215 B.C. In 215 BC, Hero of Alexandria invented the first coin-operated vending machine dispensing holy water. Hero’s holy water vending machines could be found in temples across the land. These vending machines allowed each member to receive an equal allotment of holy water without requiring the presence of the priest. Hero’s vending machines operated on an open valve system. When a coin was placed in the slot of the vending machine, it would rest on a platform. The weight of the coin would push the platform down, opening a valve and dispensing a consistent trickle of holy water. Hero’s coin-operated holy water vending machines inspired the creation of many other vending machines lending to a financial gain. It also jump-started the vending industry, allowing vending machine operators to make a supplemental income without having to be fully present.
In the 1880’s, vending machines and vending machine technology were being challenged in Europe. Although many vending machines had been created, none of them were of commercial grade. The first commercial coin-operated vending machine was invented in London. This was not a beverage or food vending machine, but a postcard vending machine. With this new vending machine, there was an increase in postal activity in the 1880’s. With the advancement of vending machine technology, post card vending machines can still be found, but with major enhancements. In the 1880’s, only one type of post card was available through vending machines. Today, vending machines offer a selection of at least twelve post cards. Certain post card vending machines also dispense post cards with full-postage.
Inspired by the invention post card vending machine, Richard Carlisle, an English publisher and bookshop owner decided he wanted to profit from his own vending machine creation. As a result, Carlisle invented the first book vending machine. Offering books from his shop, Carlisle’s vending machine held six books at a time. The concept of the book vending machine transformed into the invention of newspaper vending machines and magazine vending machines. Today, book vending machines can be found in subway stations, offering some of the most popular titles. Newspaper vending machines can be found on nearly every city street while magazine vending machines are less prominent.
With the installation of commercial, coin-operated vending machines in Europe came the introduction of vending machines in the United States. One of the most popular items in the US at the time was chewing gum. As a result, the Thomas Adams Gum Company invented the first gum vending machine to hit the United States. Offering its popular Tutti-Frutti gum, Thomas Adams Gum Company’s vending machines were introduced on subway platforms in New York. Experiencing growing popularity and technological advances, the Pulvar Manufacturing Company invented its own gum vending machine in 1897. Dispensing its own gum, Pulvar’s vending machines featured animated figures to attract customers. Today, vending machines can be found with logos, cartoon characters, and scenery prints. Mechanical gum vending machines are still popular in arcades and small restaurants, but most electronic vending machines dispense a variety of gum and snacks.
In 1902, Horn & Hardart created the first vending machine restaurant. Joseph Horn and Paul Hardart called their vending machine an automat. Horn & Hardart’s vending machines carried cafeteria-prepared foods that sat behind small glass windows. These vending machine restaurants were incredibly popular during the Depression, offering plenty of seating for customers to enjoy their food selections. The concept of a restaurant fully operated by vending machines has been carried over today with the increasing popularity of vending machines in break rooms and cafeterias. Fresh food vending machines, frozen food vending machines, and specialty vending machines all provide full meal alternatives that are fast and relatively inexpensive.
In 1907, the first round-top gumball vending machine was invented. This invention paved the way for round-top vending machines that dispense toys and candy. The round-top vending machine has become such a vintage item that companies have started creating desktop round-top vending machines to fulfill that bubblegum craving you may have during the day. Many companies now manufacture desktop round-top vending machines that also vend the most popular candies to fulfill that sweet tooth.
Mirroring the concept of Fulahia’s orange juice vending machine and Hero of Alexandria’s holy water vending machine, soda vending machines of the 1920’s dispensed a trickle of soda into cups. By feeding a coin into the vending machine, soda would be dispensed into cups, allowing a consistent amount of soda to be dispensed each time. The concept of this machine has evolved into hot beverage vending machines and fountain drink machines.
The year 1920 gave way to the invention of a useful vending machine for women. Realizing the need for feminine hygiene products, the first sanitary napkin dispenser was invented in 1920. Today, feminine hygiene product dispensing vending machines can be seen next to baby product vending machines and make-up vending machines.
The first cigarette vending machine was invented in 1926 by American inventor William Rowe. With the ability to dispense packages of cigarettes, Rowe’s vending machine could be found on many streets of America. With the growing population of smokers, the matchbox vending machine was also created. These machines could oftentimes be found together in large cities. Today, there are many laws that prohibit the sale of cigarettes in vending machines unless it’s located in a bar. Like the vending machines of 1926, these vending machines dispense cigarette packages and lighters.
There was a surge of vending machines being invented in the 1930’s. During the Depression, a single cigarette vendor was invented, dispensing a single cigarette for a penny. During this time, people couldn’t afford whole packages of cigarettes, which is what Rowe’s vending machines were offering. A lotion dispensing vending machine was also invented during this time. For a penny, you could get a pump of lotion after washing your hands.
Right after the Depression, a vending machine was invented that dispensed a box of cigarettes with a matchbook. This eliminated the need for two vending machines and led the way to the collaboration of vendable products, like combination snack and soda vending machines.
To supplement the postcard vending machine, the postage stamp vending machine was invented in 1930. This postage stamp vending machine dispensed one stamp at a time. Presently, there are postage stamp vending machines that dispense books of stamps at a handful of different rates. Additionally, vending machines today can be found dispensing postcards and envelopes with prepaid postage affixed.
The most amusing vending machine created in 1930 had to be the fruit cake vending machine. For a few cents, this vending machine would dispense a slice of fruit cake. Today, cakes and muffins are pre-packaged and are dispensed in snack vending machines.
The vending industry also felt a surge in vending machine inventions in the 1950’s. In an era where physical appearance was incredibly important, a coin-operated shaver/after-shave dispensing vending machine was invented. Upon inserting your coin into the vending machine, a door would swing open to unveil a shaver that was connected to the vending machine. A squirt of shaving cream would be dispensed and upon returning the shaver into the vending machine, you would be rewarded with a squirt of after-shave.
Similarly, a shaving blade dispensing vending machine was also created. Upon inserting your coin, a shaver would be dispensed from the vending machine. For the ladies, a perfumed-napkin vending machine was created. By inserting your coin into the vending machine, a lacy napkin scented with a popular fragrance would be dispensed. The first ballpoint pen vending machine was also introduced in the 1950’s.
The vending machine industry has grown tremendously since the creation of ancient vending machines, the postcard vending machine, and even the cigarette vending machine. Today, technology makes it possible for vending machines to accept credit cards and even operate wirelessly. What will be next to improve and advance vending machines? We can only wait to see what’s uncovered next.