When Were Vending Machines Invented?

Today, you are likely to see a vending machine in any physical store that you enter. Whether it’s the supermarket or a local restaurant, there’s always a designated vending machine that’s meant to serve you whenever you feel like buying. You actually don’t have to worry about the time of shopping or who’ll serve you as vending machines have you covered. From foods and beverages to cigarettes and newspapers, there’s virtually a vending machine for everything.

You just need to insert money or a credit card and the vending machine will automatically sell to you. Because of this, they are often referred to as automatic retailers. But, as you continue to marvel at these masterpieces, do you really know when the machines were invented? We try to break down the history of the machines for you so as you can understand their origin much better.

The First-Ever Vending Machine Invention (215 BC)

The first vending machine dates back in Ancient Greek in 215 BC. It was a piece of work by mathematician Hero of Alexandria. The idea behind the invention is very interesting. You were required to feed the machine with coins so as it can give you ‘holy water’. Once you insert a coin into it, it would fall on an empty pan that was linked to a lever. So, the weight of the inserted coin will pull the attached lever resulting in the flow of ‘holy water’. The water was called ‘holy’ because it was tantamount to a ‘Greek god’. Later in 1615, the tobacco vending machine was invented in the UK. The machine was a portable one.

The First Modern Vending Machine (the 1880s)

The first-ever commercial (coin-operated) automatic retailer was invented in London early in 1880. The whole idea was to help busy and money-hungry entrepreneurs sell quickly and in bulk. The automatic retailer was designed to dispense postcards. The man behind the idea was Percival Everitt. This machine not only became an important dispensing point at the post offices but also at the railway stations. Later, the vending machine would dispense envelopes and notepapers in addition to postcards.

In 1893, the first vending machine company was founded in England. The company going by the name Sweetmeat Delivery was established to facilitate installation as well as maintenance of commercial vending machines. In 8893, a German entrepreneur who was selling chocolate set up his own company for building vending machines for chocolate dispensing. The machine will later be used to dispense soaps and matches.

The First-Ever Vending Machine in the US (1888)

The US is never left behind when it comes to inventions. Though the first modern vending machine was invented outside the US in the early 1880s, a similar design was built in the US in 1888. The company responsible was Thomas Adams Gums. The vending machine was meant to sell fruity gums in New York City, especially around the railway area. In 1887, the company added a gaming incentive to their invention. This prompted people to refer to the machine as a ‘trade stimulator’ as it encourages more people to buy the gums.

The Evolution of the Vending Machine

So much has changed since the first invention of the vending machine. So many vending machines companies have been founded over the years. So, technology has vastly changed. Here’s a breakdown of the evolution:

  • 1890 – The First Vending Machine for Drinks

From dispending postcards and gums came vending machines for beverages. At around 1930, the first vending machine for dispensing sodas was invented. The only available dispensed soda drinks at the time were Pepsi and Coke. As expected, Coca Cola made the way for Pepsi. In 1946, the vending machine for dispensing coffee was invented for institutions. Later on, vending machines for canned soda were invented. The machines were also used to dispense water in restaurants and supermarkets. Surprisingly, a majority of the earlier designs are still in operation to date.

  • 1926 – The First Vending Machine for Cigarettes

The need to have a quick way of selling cigarettes prompted American inventor and innovator William Rowe to come up with the first vending machine for dispensing cigarettes. However, the invention has been marred with concerns about underage buyers and this messed up their popularity. Actually, they are more popular in Japan and Europe as opposed to the US as the countries have better ways to ensure age verification before selling.

  • 1950 – The First Vending Machine for Life Insurance

In 1950, American airports saw the need to sell life insurance via automatic selling points. So, they started using vending machines to sell policies to travelers that would assure them death coverage in case their flight crashed. Unfortunately, these machines were short-lived. They barely lasted two decades.

  • 1950 – The First Vending Machine for Schools

As you already know, the first coin-operated vending machine was invented in the 1880s. However, the machine was only redesigned for school use in 1950. This is the year that students and teachers would buy drinks and candies from automatic retailers. However, there were and still, are restrictions pertaining to what sugary consumables should be dispensed in schools and which ones shouldn’t.

  • 1965 – The First Vending Machine to Accept Paper Bills

Early in 1965, a man by the name John Greenwick decided to build a vending machine that uses paper bills instead of coins. This was a great shift from the original coin-operated vending machine. Now, people don’t have to carry coins anymore because of this invention.

  • 1972 – The First Vending Machine for Snacks

In 1972, a company by the name Polyvend saw the need to dispense snacks. So, they invented the first glass-front vending machine for shops. The machine would entice kids and adults with candy cravings to grab a bite. Such designs are quite popular around the shopping malls and in the streets.

  • 1987 – The First Vending Machine for Frozen Foods

The invention of vending machines for beverages and snacks opened the door for options that dispense frozen foods. Actually, the manufacturer saw the need to hold foods within the vending machine for long without risking them going bad. So, 1987 saw the origin of some of the world’s best vending machines for frozen food products.

Closing Thought:

The vending machines have come a long way and there is no doubt about it. From using coins to now using credit cards, it has been a story for the ages. These automatic retailers make things really interesting for the modern consumer. They not only get to save time but labor too. They are truly the future of the retail business.