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The History of Vending Machines

If you are like us, you probably go to sleep every night dreaming about the different types of vending machines that are on the market today. If that is the case and you are looking for ways to spice up your dreams with fresh vending machine material, you are in luck. We have written an article on the history of vending machines that will take you back to the first vending machines of Ancient Greece and then to the commercial vending machine resurgence of the 1880's.

Ancient Roots

Amazingly, vending machines have historical roots in ancient Greece! The first known vending machine was invented by the Greek engineer and mathematician Hero of Alexandria around 215 BC. These first vending machines were located in Egyptian temples and dispensed holy water in exchange for coins.

Despite this early innovation, it was not until the early 1880s that the first commercial coin-operated vending machines were introduced for public use. These vending machines dispensed post cards and were found in London. Around the same time, Richard Carlisle, an English publisher and bookshop owner, invented a vending machine that dispensed books.

Vending machines made their United States debut in 1888 when the Thomas Adams Gum Company installed machines on subway platforms in New York City to vend Tutti-Frutti gum. In 1897, the Pulver Manufacturing Company added animated figures to vending machines, which provided added entertainment for the customer as the figures would move once coins were deposited into the machine.

After these first vending machines were introduced, others soon followed, vending a wide variety of items including cigars, postcards and stamps. In 1902, the Horn & Hardart Baking Company opened a completely coin-operated Automat restaurant, which stayed in business until 1962.


Vending Machines Historical Timeline

Gumball Machines

  • 1907 - Round candy-coated gumballs and gumball machines are introduced.

Soda Machines & Soft Drink Machines

  1. Early 1920's - The first automatic vending machines that dispense soda into cups are invented.
  2. 1930s – Chilled bottled soft drink machines are invented, followed by the first Coca-Cola bottle vending machine built by The Vendolator Company in 1937.
  3. 1961 – Canned soda machines are introduced.
  4. 1978 – Soft drink machines that dispense water are introduced.

Snack Machines

  • 1972 – Polyvend introduces the first glass front snack machines.
  • 1987 – The first frozen food vending machines are introduced.

Cigarette Machines

  • 1926 - William Rowe, an American inventor, invents the first commercial cigarette vending machine.

Coffee Vending Machines

  1. 1946 – The invention of coffee vending machines popularizes their use for coffee breaks.
  2. 1960 – The first single-cup coffee vending machines come to market.
  3. 1988 – Bean-grinders are available in coffee vending machines.
  4. 1991 – Coffee vending machines offer flavored coffees, espresso and cappuccino.

Thanks for taking the time to learn a little more about our fun industry! Gumballs.com is proud to be one of the largest online retailers of bubble gum balls, gumball machines, candy machines, vending machines and other bulk vending supplies. Thanks again!