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Vending machines were widely used in Europe before they became popular in the United States. The first commercial coin operated post card vendor was introduced in London in the early 1880s.

In 1888, the Thomas Adams Gum Co. was the first company to introduce vending machines in America. Thomas Adams installed vending machines on elevated subway platforms in New York City to sell his Tutti-Fruiti gum. In 1897, the Pulver Manufacturing Company added animated figures to its gum machines as a way to attract patrons. The familiar round candy coated gumball that is so popular today was only introduced in 1907.

Vending machines became so popular in the United States that virtually everything was soon offered from a vending machine: cigars, postcards, stamps, etc. The first completely coin operated restaurant was opened in Philadelphia in 1902. It was called Horn & Hardart and was a popular institution until the 1960s when the fast food craze finally put them out of business.

Additional information on gumball, peanut and other vending machines can be found in Silent Salesmen Too by Bill Enes.

Copyright: 1996 Ken Durham.

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