The most active vending machines served up candy, cigarettes and soda pops.
Those things no doubt played a role. But there's another, often-forgotten factor that helped cigarettes conquer the world: technology. The introduction of cigarette-rolling machines in the 19th century was a truly world-changing invention that had an enormous impact on public health, a s Gary Cross and Robert Proctor explain in their book Packaged Pleasures. Before , companies could only roll four to five cigarettes per minute.
That just wasn't quick enough for cigarettes to become a dominant mass-market item. The introduction of the rolling machine in changed everything. By , they could roll a staggering 20, per minute:. Prior to , cigarettes were rolled by hand, which meant a rate of only a few cigarettes per minute. One of the first cigarette-rolling machines, the Susini, appeared in , but was finicky and wasn't widely adopted.
The Bonsack machine worked by creating a single long cigarette that could be cut into appropriate portions. The original patent drawing for the Bonsack machine. Wikimedia Commons. Innovations like the Bonsack machine were followed by American and international inventions that further increased cigarette production and packaging.
It was never a foregone conclusion that the cigarette would become the dominant way to consume tobacco. In , cigarettes were an insignificant portion of the American tobacco market, especially compared with cigars, chew, and pipes. Cigarettes only went from niche product to mass-market success after the rolling machine improved dramatically:.
Forms of tobacco consumption Burns et al. Of course, it's hard to prove that technology was the only factor here. But there is some suggestive evidence. Notably, t he shortening of cigarette-manufacturing times correlates well with the rise in smoking rates worldwide. Even though cigarette-smoking rates have declined in the United States since the s, thanks to aggressive public-health campaigns, global smoking rates have continued to increase in tandem with the major strides in rolling technology.
The best place to see that is in China: In , the Chinese smoked 7. By , that figure had risen to 2. Granted, this is partly a chicken-and-egg question. If customers didn't want cigarettes in the first place, it wouldn't matter how fast rolling machines could work. A wheel on the side can be used to rotate the carousel so you can see all different candy bars before making a selection.
The unit weighs pounds. These units were often attached to the sides of the candy machines and dispensed small gums, like Adams Chiclets. Another model of the Stoner Theater Candy Vendor was built in the s and featured an illuminated front panel. Housing 8 selections, the beautiful art deco design makes this one a rare vendor in the Stoner line. Accepting nickels, dimes and quarters, these more stylish units would have been used in more upscale movie theaters.
It weighs pounds. That means this unit would commonly serve up only one style of ice cream bar. These were also available in a 3-selection tabletop version. The pull handles are made of Bakelite. The floor version shown above has been restored, and the graphics are not original. We also restored the s Cigarette Vending Machine above , which features an art deco design. This unit was likely used in a nice restaurant, nightclub or theater.
Unfortunately, the details on this particular unit are unknown, and we do not know who manufactured the unit. From the s, this 8-selection machine includes a gum and mint selector. The C-A-N-D-Y at the base are cut outs, and the glass behind them covers multicolored, rotating lights. Do you have a vintage vending machine in your home or office?
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