Vending Machines

An American Social History


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About the Book

Although the 1880s are considered the beginning of the vending machine era, these devices have existed for a couple of thousand years. The earliest reference to a vending machine was made by Hero—a Greek mathematician, physicist and engineer who probably lived in Alexandria during the first century a.d.—who described and illustrated a coin-operated device to be used for vending sacrificial water in Egyptian temples. Completely automatic, the device was set in operation by the insertion of a five-drachma coin. This work traces the history of the vending machine from its inception to its current place in popular American culture, with the eight chapters covering significant eras. Successes and failures of the machines, economic factors influencing the popularity (or lack thereof) of vending machines, and the struggle of industry to become a dominant, large-scale method of retailing products are discussed. This text is richly illustrated and includes appendices on vending dollar value, vending sales by location type and vending statistics.

About the Author(s)

Cultural historian Kerry Segrave is the author of dozens of books on such diverse topics as drive-in theaters, lie detectors, jukeboxes, smoking, shoplifting and ticket-scalping. He lives in British Columbia.

Bibliographic Details

Kerry Segrave

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 290
Bibliographic Info: 90 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2002
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1369-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8159-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface     1

1 From Hero of Alexandria to Tutti-Frutti of New York: The Years to (1918)     3
2 Robots Can Sell Anything; Robots Will Sell Everything (1918–1931)     21
3 Cigarettes Blaze the Way (1932–1939)     47
4 The War on Slugs Goes Federal (1940–1944)     108
5 Optimism Returns (1945–1949)     119
6 The Four C’s Dominate (1950s)     141
7 Dreams Placed on Hold, Cigarettes, Coffee, Cola, Candy (1960–1985)     169
8 VMs Cut Down on Smoking, Adopt a Healthier Lifestyle (1986–2001)     191

Appendix A: Vended Dollar Volume     233
Appendix B: Vending Sales by Location Type     234
Appendix C: Vending Sales by Type of Product     235

Notes     239
Bibliography     261
Index     277

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “recounts the story of coin-operated automatic machines that dispense food, drink, products, or services”—C&RL News
  • “an important publication in the history of modern technology…highly recommended”—E-Streams
  • “a nice introduction to the vending machine industry…recommended”—Choice
  • “interesting”—Communication Booknotes Quarterly