When looking back at the history of vending machines, you might be amazed to learn that the first known account goes all the way back to the first century Roman Egypt empire! Hero of Alexandria (yes, Hero is his name, not his job title) was a mathematician and engineer, and his ingenious invention dispensed holy water in exchange for a gold coin. Once the participant deposited a gold coin, it fell upon a weight-sensitive pan that was attached to a lever.
The lever then opened the valve responsible for letting a small amount of holy water flow out. The pan continued to tilt with the weight of the gold coin until the point it slid off – as this occurred, the counterweight then released the lever and the valve was shut off. Sheer genius!
In the early 16th century taverns of England, coin-operated machines were dispensing tobacco products to the masses. Made of brass, the vending machines were portable, unlike their ancient predecessors. In 1822, a then-English bookselling entrepreneur named Richard Carlile created a book dispensing machine for the distribution of banned works that were outlawed at the time. The first fully automatic vending machine was patented by Simeon Denham, for his stamp dispensing machine in 1867. It was awarded under British Patent no. 706.
The birth of modern vending
Introduced in London, England, the first modern coin-operated vending machine was presented to the masses in the early 1880s, distributing postcards. Percival Everitt was the man who invented this early incantation of the modern machine and in 1883, it soon became prevalent in railways and post offices across England – this time, dispensing notepaper, postcards, and envelopes to the needing public. It wasn’t until 1893that Stollwerck – a German chocolate company – started promoting and stocking chocolate in over 15,000 vending machines. They then tried to corner the market by setting up separate companies all over the country. To satisfy demand, they began to manufacture the machines not just for chocolates, but all sorts of products, including cigarettes, gum, soap, and matches.
The Americans were a little late to the ball and it took until 1888 before vending machines started popping up around the US. The Thomas Adams Gum Company started adding gum machines to New York City train platforms, which was a huge success. Shortly after, the Pulver Manufacturing Company started adding game-like additions to the machines. These consisted of small figures or moving parts that were activated when someone purchased a product. This then created a whole new idea called ‘trade stimulators’, which were an added incentive for customers to make a vending machine purchase. Back then, many of the trade stimulators were similar to slot machines or had some type of fun mechanism to collect money. While these have become less popular on standard vending machines these days, you’ll still find a similar thing used by some charity organizations with their ‘money spinners’ or ‘roll-a-coin’ donation bins (which were invented in Australia, by the way).
This is just a brief history into the first era of vending machines, but there is a plethora of interesting knowledge about vending machine history that we’ll share in future posts. In this day and age, vending machines have become commonplace in most public locations and the team at Quality Vend is full of knowledge about this great industry.
We’re happy to share all the details about what to stock, where to situate your machine and how to be successful. Contact us today on 1300 305 051 and have a chat with one of our reps.