At the center of all this trendy trash is the gumball machine, which dates all the way back to the 1800s. Thomas Adams, the father of the modern chewing gum (and maker of the classic black licorice gum, Black Jack) installed the first American chewing gum vending machine at a New York subway station in 1888. The flavor was Tutti-Fruiti.
Over the next century, the vending machines began to dispense candy as well as gum, and the competition between these neighboring machines elicited a wave of creative names and vending machine cards to catch the attention of America’s youth culture. At the end of this article is a gallery of some of my favorites!
If you’d like to read more about American candy and culture from its golden age, check out my new book, “Classic Candy: America’s Favorite Sweets, 1950-80,” available at amazon.com, powells.com, and barnesandnoble.com. It’s available in a print edition as well as NOOK Book and Kindle.