ShoutMix chat widget

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

History of Bulk Candy and Vending Machines

In doing a lot of research on candy, I decided to take a little
departure and write about the history of bulk candy. Sounds like "ho
hum". But really, bulk candy has a little twist in itself.

If you have followed my articles on candy, you will know that it was
mainstreamed in the late 1800's. Bulk candy did not come along until
much later. In fact, it has only been around about 75 years.

Francis Arthur (known as F.A.) Wittern, in the 1920's was employed as
a private contractor, making everything you can imagine for home and
on the job use. In 1931, he took $12.50 and created the very first
vending machine. More about that in a minute.

What I find fascinating is the figure $12.50. With that, you can by a
DVD, a purse, a case of sodas, a family sized package of hamburger
meat, or really cheap sneakers. However, wait! In reality, if you
compare the would actually be purchasing DVD players,
television sets, or computers (none of which existed in the year
1931!). According to CPI (Consumer Price Index), the equivalent of
$12.50 in 1931 to today is $176.71. I know, you cannot buy a good
television for that price. It gets better. If you compare the worth of
"unskilled labor" from 1931 to today, that same $12.50 is now worth
$528.69! Now, we are getting somewhere.

Okay, back to the original research. Bulk candy was first found in
F.A. Witterns "Peanut penny dispenser". He first placed it in a local
bar. His company, Hawkeye Novelty, was innovative in several areas.
First of all, with the bulk candy dispenser, every ninth "vend" would
result in a bell ringing, meaning the person inserting the penny would
win a free portion of peanuts! It also had the ability to
differentiate between real coins and slugs. He developed this during
the Great Depression, possibly as a means of income, since there were
no jobs to be found. During World War II, as times got tougher, Mr.
Wittern ventured out into other arenas, finally coming back to his
original invention at some point after the war.

Vending machines, dispensing bulk candy has come a long way since
then. In the late 30's, the design was changed to be able to dispense
larger items like matches. They have a different look about them even
now. The original machines were small enough to sit on a table or
countertop. Now it is very interesting and fun to watch as the gumball
spins down a screw-type slide, or lights up the machine on its way
down the chute. They not only come in a variety of shapes, but designs
as well. I have seen machines that look like old time gas pumps, or
have the old "Route 66" logo.

Today, you can see bulk candy machines in malls, children's play
areas, restaurants, gas stations, and probably bars, as well. They
have become quite the nostalgic item, still dispensing that old bulk
candy that we all love and remember so well.