History of Automatic Vending Machines



The history of automatic vending machines is a fascinating journey that spans centuries, from its humble beginnings in ancient Greece to its modern-day evolution with cutting-edge technology. Let’s delve further into the historical timeline and key developments in the world of vending machines, along with additional information and dates.

Ancient Origins: 215 B.C.

The earliest known “vending machine” can be traced back to 215 B.C., documented by the Greek mathematician Hero. Hero, along with his teacher Tesibius, detailed their inventions in the book “Pneumatika.” One of their inventions was a coin-operated device that dispensed a small quantity of sacrificial water upon inserting a five-drachma coin. However, it’s worth noting that there’s limited evidence suggesting widespread usage of this machine, and automated vending saw little progress for centuries.

17th Century: The English Taverns

Around 1615, in English taverns, rudimentary coin-operated machines emerged, designed to dispense snuff and tobacco. These early machines were less sophisticated than Hero’s creation, requiring manual lid closure after each use. Typically crafted from brass, they were portable and carried from one customer to another.

19th Century: A Growing Variety

The 19th century marked a significant expansion in both the variety and quantity of automatic vending machines. In 1822, an early form of a newspaper vending machine appeared in England, conceived by Richard Carlile, a bookseller attempting to evade arrest for distributing banned works like Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason.” Despite its functionality, Carlile’s machine did not prevent his arrest.

In 1857, the first recorded patent for a vending machine was granted to Simeon Denham for a device that dispensed penny postage stamps. Over the subsequent decades, inventors worldwide patented coin-operated machines vending items ranging from candy and cigarettes to handkerchiefs. In 1884, W.H. Fruen received the first U.S. patent for a vending machine that closely resembled Hero’s holy water dispenser.

Late 19th Century: American Expansion

The American automatic vending machine industry truly took root in 1888 when Thomas Adams of the Adams Gum Company introduced Tutti-Frutti gum vending machines on New York’s elevated rail platforms. These machines proved highly successful, and during the late 19th century, postage stamp vending machines became more prevalent. The Automatic Machine Company in Buffalo, New York, pioneered the large-scale sale of stamps in 1891. Around the turn of the century, bulk vending machines started emerging. The Mills Novelty Company, in 1901, introduced machines that dispensed a predetermined quantity of peanuts for a penny, while Horn & Hardart Baking Company revolutionized vending by opening its first Automat restaurant in Philadelphia the following year.

20th Century: Advancements and Expansion

Before 1908, beverage vending machines dispensed only drinks, typically shared via a common cup. In that year, responding to rising awareness of sanitation concerns, the Public Cup Vendor Company (later becoming the Dixie Cup Company) unveiled a machine that dispensed water in individual paper cups.

The 1920s witnessed a division in the automatic vending industry, separating manufacturers from operators. Companies like the Doehler Die Casting Company developed machines for vending diverse products, including Life Savers, lighter fluid, and sanitary napkins. In 1925, three cigarette vending machines were introduced, marking another industry shift. Candy machines offering a selection of products gained popularity in the 1930s, with Nathaniel Leverone, founder of the Canteen Company, leading the way in their development.

World War II and Post-War Era

During World War II, vending machine manufacturing halted. However, after the war, the industry rebounded, with innovations like hot coffee and hot dog vending machines emerging. The 1950s saw the introduction of paper money changers, and in 1961, canned soft drink vending machines made their debut, leading to a surge in vending sales.

Late 20th Century and Beyond

In the subsequent years, the vending machine industry underwent consolidation, with large companies dominating manufacturing. Advances in electronics, introduced in vending machines in 1980, enhanced their capabilities, enabling record-keeping and error diagnosis. The range of automatically vended products continued to expand, including specialized items like microwave popcorn.

In the early 1990s, the vending machine industry entered a new era with the advent of “smart” machines. These machines could handle various products and perform record-keeping functions, enabling bottling companies to take on more responsibilities that were previously outsourced. Additionally, the replacement of mechanical parts with electronic components led to further industry consolidation.

The 1990s witnessed several notable changes in the vending industry. Vending machines were capable of offering higher-quality food options, particularly in workplaces replacing traditional cafeterias with vending areas. Major manufacturers produced machines for items like french fries, fresh pizza, and a broader range of microwaveable frozen foods.

According to the “State of The Vending Industry Report” published by Automatic Merchandiser, the automatic merchandising industry grew by 5.6 percent in 1998, reaching $23.3 billion. This marked the most significant one-year increase of the 1990s. All product categories experienced growth, except for cigarettes, which represented less than 1 percent of total vending sales in 1998. Soft drink vending was especially successful, with around 1.2 billion cases sold through vending machines in the U.S. in 1998. Soft drink companies invested in vending machines as they were less subject to discounting and intense competition compared to supermarkets.

Late 20th Century Challenges and Innovations

In the late 1990s, trends included the proliferation of plastic beverage bottles in vending machines, with machines accommodating various bottle sizes. Innovations like credit card and debit card acceptance, as well as coupon usage, were introduced. Glass front cold beverage machines gained popularity, and insulated machines for outdoor candy vending were developed.

The sharp decline in cigarette smoking in the 1990s had a significant impact on the vending industry, with cigarettes contributing a smaller portion of operators’ revenue compared to the 1960s.

21st Century and Beyond: Evolving Trends

As we move into the 2020s, vending machines continue to evolve, with a focus on offering energy efficiency, sustainability, cashless payment options, and enhanced security features to meet changing consumer demands and technology advancements. Vending machines have come a long way from their ancient Greek origins, and they remain an integral part of modern convenience and commerce.

History of Automatic Vending Machines

Welcome to Admiral Vending

As an independent company Admiral Vending Systems are able to offer the best machine for your needs regardless of manufacturer. We were established on the principle that putting customers first will build long lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. Our manufacturer trained local engineers are normally able to respond within 8 hours and carry the vast majority of parts and stock needed. We have the experience and expertise to supply our customers with what they need and supply a five year service agreement to back it up.

From the initial conversation we will assess your needs, recommend the right machine for your environment then provide purchase or lease rental options. We will take care of the machine delivery, initial set up and training. We offer a comprehensive service agreement to keep your machine functioning and delivering your ingredients and supplies as and when you need them.

No matter what your circumstances we will do our best to find something that suits your needs from new start-up businesses, family-owned enterprises, SMEs, all the way up to multi-site nationally based companies.

We offer a large variety of machines our commercial coffee machine range includes tabletop coffee machines, floor standing coffee vending machine and traditional espresso coffee machines. We also supply vending machines that can be configured to take any combination of snack, can and bottle. As with the majority of our coffee machines, they can accept coin or contactless payment (Including apple and android pay, and credit and debit cards) In addition, we also supply our Ice Crush Slush and Ice cocktails machines.

Admirals’ local manufacturer trained engineers will ensure the machines are set up exactly to your requirements and make sure that your in-house operators are trained to high standard of competence. If you have a hot drink machine, we will fine tune the individual drinks from the initial shot of espresso, through to the hot chocolate, to make sure the drinks match your expectations. From there any maintenance calls placed with our customer service team will be handled efficiently and the call allocated to next available engineer. Your supplies will be delivered straight to your door as and when you need them.

Customer Service

Admiral Vending
Commercial coffee machine from Admiral Vending in action