Vending machines didn’t always just sling soda and smokes. Did you know the automated peddlers have been around for about two thousand years? In fact, thevery first vending machine was invented by first-century mathematician Hero of Alexandria to dispense holy water using a series of valves, pulleys, and weights. And they’ve been stuffed with just about anything you can imagine since.
It wasn’t until after the Industrial Revolution that vending machines became a normal sight. The first ones, which sold postcards, appeared in London in the 1880s. Then in 1888, they traveled across the Atlantic to New York City, where machines built by Thomas Adams Gum Company peddled chewing gum on subway platforms.
We’ve been buying all kinds of things from machines ever since, from whiskey to hot meals to fruits, and all kinds of foods and oddities in between. Here are some of our favorites.
In 1918, when vending machines were still a recent phenomenon, they dispensed pies. Today’s vending machines should take a hint.
In that same year, vending machines would give you a manicure.
This 1953 machine was ancestor to the modern Great Wall Super Buffet.
Image credit: Life
In 2013, you can’t really imagine a hot meal from a vending machine tasting like anything but warm cardboard, but in 1953? Probably still cardboard, according to this hot meal patron’s expression.
Image credit: Life
It’s safe to assume that the reason we don’t see farm fresh eggs straight from the vending machine is that eggs crack.
Image credit: Central Press
The Book-o-Matic is just as good an idea now as it was when it existed in 1949.
Image credit: Life
Throughout history there have been so many great and useful inventions created for our daily convenience. One of these inventions is the vending machine, this handy machine made it quick and easy to purchase all sorts of products with the push of a few buttons.
Let’s take a look at some fun facts about the history of vending machines:
- The first commercial coin operated vending machines were introduced in London, England in the early 1880s for the convenience of busy and hungry businessmen.
The first vending machines dispensed quick bites such as apples and even postcards.
- The word vending in vending machine comes from the term for automatic retailing, from a machine or manned stand, as is the case for selling small items like food.
The first American vending machine was introduced in 1888. It was manufactured by the Thomas Adams Gum Company and dispensed Tutti Fruity Gum!
- In the early 1920s, the first vending machine that sold soda dispensed it into a cup.
Sodas sold in bottles came around in the 1930s and the only choices available in vending machines were Classic Coke and Pepsi.
- In 1965, John Greenwick invented the first vending machine that accepted paper bills. People did not have to carry around coins to use anymore, though product prices were now more than back in the 1880s.
- During the mid to late 2000s, retailers got creative and started stocking machines with products other than sodas and candy, such as toys, fishing bait and hot foods.
- Around 2012, nutritional information started to become prevalent next to some vending machines that sold food and drinks, showing a rise in consumer health interest regarding snack foods—the primary staple of vending machines at the time.
- 2011 to 2013 was the age of innovation for vending retailers and their customers. Many machines these days let you pay using a credit card and even by scanning and using an app on your smartphone. The days of carrying around a bunch of small bills have passed!
It’s amazing to think that something as routine as a vending machine dates back to the 1800’s—and even more amazing when you look at how far vending technology has come. From only two choices of cola and the need to pay by coin, to buying a healthy salad with your smartphone, vending technology has absolutely come into the future.