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Devices: vending machines

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63147.  Fri Mar 31, 2006 2:59 pm Reply with quote

What did the first vending machines vend?

Chocolate; condoms; cigarettes; washing powder.

Holy water, milk, and blasphemy.

The first ever vending machine is said to have been invented by Hero or Heron of Alexander, in the first century BC. A five-drachma bronze coin was inserted into the slot and the machine dispensed a small amount of water for the ritual washing of the face and hands required before entering the temple.

In modern times - which is how I still think of the 18th century - Richard Carlile was banned from selling Thomas Paine’s “The Rights of Man” from his Fleet Street bookshop, but he found a rather neat loophole ... a charge could only be brought if a government agent could identify the salesman who sold the subversive pamphlet. So Carlile “rigged up a clockwork ‘Automotive Blasphemy Machine’ in which customers put their money into one slot, and received their revolutionary text from another.”

In 1873, the Kentish Town branch of Sainsbury’s had a coin-operated vending machine nicknamed the ‘mechanical cow’ that dispensed milk to after-hours shoppers.

Vending machines are, apparently, one of the many things which are much deadlier than sharks ... or at least, cause more deaths.

Links to:

Picture ideas:

Sunday Telegraph 22 January 2006, review of “The trouble with Tom” by Paul Collins.
Posts by Gray, JumpingJack, garrick and eggshaped on the Research: Devices thread.
‘Inventing the Victorians’ by Matthew Sweet (2001).


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