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.


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