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History of Vending Machines

It is widely accepted that the vending machine was first developed way back in the 1st century AD, by a Greek mathematician known as: Hero, or Hero of Alexandria (and later Heron/Heron of…). This vending machine was created to distribute holy water from temples in Egypt. It is believed the mechanics of this vending machine involved a valve which opened and released holy water when a lever was activated by a coin.

However, this particular vending machine engineer was somewhat before his time. Subsequent records of vending machine manufacture appear to be non-existent until the early 18th century, when English colonies (and also later that century, British-American colonies) used simple coin-activated ‘honour boxes’ to sell tobacco and snuff (snuff: n. inhaled or ‘smokeless’ tobacco); though this first use of modern vending machines seems debatable.

Alternative sources credit an English publisher and bookshop owner named Richard Carlisle with the first commercial vending machine (which – unsurprisingly – was used to vend books); whereas it is also documented that coin-operated vending machines to dispense postcards were introduced into London, England around the same time (during the early 1880s).

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