Almanac: The first vending machine

Almanac: The first vending machine patent

On December 16, 1884, 134 years ago today, William Henry Fruen, of Minneapolis, patented his "Automatic Liquid-Drawing Device."  Designed to look like a building, Fruen's device dispensed mineral water upon the deposit of a coin, making it America's first patented vending machine.

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Google Patents

The first, but hardly the last.

Over the decades, vending machines of ever-increasing complexity and variety have become a familiar sight across our land.

So familiar that a vending machine even featured in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 dark nuclear war comedy "Dr. Strangelove." 

In need of small change to make a pay phone call to the president, Peter Sellers implores Keenan Wynn to open fire on a Coke machine:

Wynn: "If you don't get the President of the United States on the phone, you know what's going to happen to you?"
Sellers: "What?"
Wynn: "You're going to have to answer to the Coca-Cola Company."

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At one time or another, everyone has felt frustration with a vending machine.  Columbia Pictures

Most vending machine transactions go far more smoothly than that, of course.

Today, vending machine dispense all sorts of products – particularly in Japan, where the variety of foods and drinks and goods on offer is legendary.

With all due respect to that first machine, these days it's a lot more than mineral water.

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Want an egg? There's a vending machine for that! CBS News

   
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Story produced by Charis Satchell.