• The Story Behind- Vending Machines

By Knowledge Tribe

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Vending machines are a recurring symbol of pop culture, in TV series or 80s’ movies where school kids drop in some coins and get a snack for themselves. Ah…the clinking noise of the coins hitting the slot and the snack hitting the counter! But did you know that the first vending machine, or even the second vending machine was not made to dispense food items? Exactly. So, let’s take a quick look at the history of vending machines.

1st Century AD. Yeah, the first vending machine came about in Roman Egypt and was invented by the Hero of Alexandria to dispense holy water. To make sure that the city folks were not taking too much water from the temple, he created a device into which people would drop tokens to release only a certain quantity of water. Wow, stingy much?

In 1615, England gave us a small machine that dispensed tobacco. This was set up in taverns and the world saw a vending machine almost 1500 years after the first one. In 1822, Richard Carlile, an English bookseller and publisher, created a machine that dispensed banned work, allowing readers to purchase the works. By the 1850s-60s the first fully-automatic vending machine was introduced. It sold stamps and writing paper. By the 1880s, coin-operated vending machines were introduced in London and Percival Everitt invented a machine that dispensed envelopes, postcards and notepaper.

Image: A modern-day vending machine.
Image source: alibaba.com

In 1887, Sweetmeat Automatic Delivery Company set up multiple vending machines in England, selling stuff like chocolates, chewing gum, perfume and matches. In 1888, USA got its first vending machine, set up by the Thomas Adams Gum Company, selling tutti-frutti gum. Love the idea; hate the flavour.

Image: Thomas Adams Gum Company’s tutti-frutti gum vending machine.
Image source: pinterest.com

In 1890, the first beverage-vending machine was installed in Paris. It allowed people to get various alcoholic beverages. Soda-vending machines only emerged in the 1920s. In 1902, a restaurant called Horn & Hardart was opened. What’s so special about it? Well, it was coin-operated, allowing nickels to be inserted in a machine which then dispensed food and beverage.

In 1907, one of the earliest models of the modern-day gumball dispensing machines came out. You know those cute globe-like things that have large round gumballs? God, I always wanted one. In 1926, cigarette-vending machines were invented by William Rowe and were set up in USA. These had a notorious reputation, with teenagers using the device rampantly. Through the 1940s and 1950s, soda-vending machines became more popular than any other item. Coca-Cola shot through in the business and currently has one of the largest number of vending machines.

Image: An early model of the gumball dispensing machine.
Image source: pinterest.com

Image: A banana-vending machine in Japan.
Image source: activend.com.au

Currently, vending machines aren’t such a rage…here. Japan is the land of vending machines. They sell almost everything through those machines. There are sushi vending machines, banana-vending machines and even horned beetle vending machines. Is that safe? I can’t say. But this definitely shows the creativity of human minds. We take a holy water dispenser and make an under-cool gadget out of it!

Is there any other invention or creation that you would like to read of? Do write to us! Watch this space for more of The Story Behind a whole bunch of cool things.


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