Silent Clerks: Vending Machines

The rise of self service shopping is most often associated with changes in how people bought groceries. However, in the 1890s and 1900s, decades before the first supermarkets, some companies had already begun designing machines to do the work of salesmen. We know them as vending machines.

Advertised in a 1905 trade catalog as “The Silent Clerk,” one countertop cigar vending machine allowed the cigar dealer to fill the machine with whatever brand he chose. The actual sales, however, depended entirely on the visual appeal of the cigars and of the machine itself. The vending machine was the package. Another, larger cigar vending machine--the Triograph--drew shoppers' attention because it allowed them to view photographs of “actresses in stage costume” and “rare and racy” high art pictures through the machine's stereoscope.

Like later packages, these eye-catching vending machines protected the goods inside them before delivering them in a convenient, modern way.

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