The Victorian Gas Lamps That Sold Cups of Hot Coffee

We’re all familiar with vending machines that dispense sugary drinks and confections at various locations, but did you know that some of the earliest vending machines were built into the bases of gas lamps? At the Great Exhibit of 1897, a demonstration was made of a gas lamp that also included an automatic machine that could dispense a gallon of hot water, tea, cocoa, or coffee. These lamps were developed by a company called Refreshment Lamp Syndicate, founded in 1896 by H. M. Robinson. In addition to dispensing hot drinks, they also provided illumination to the dark streets. The company installed a number of the vending machines before seemingly vanishing with barely a memory of their existence.