We have spoken before about the role of photography as a recorder of the obsolete – as an archivist, if you will. Recently at the local mall the candy shop closed. This was one of those candy shops where children would load up plastic bags with individual candies – break the teeth and beak the bank. Shortly after the closing, I noticed these gumball machines appearing at strategic locations. Gumball machines were part of my youth. They hanker to New York City Subway vending machines for penny candies – part of the treat of a subway ride for children of the day.
According to the Wikipedia, itself out to obsolete the print encylopedia, vending machines for stick or block shaped gum as early as 1888, but the first machines to carry actual gumballs were introduced in 1907 (probably released first by the Thomas Adams Gum Co). Well, the candy is no longer a penny. They are now a quarter, as the label proclaims. Therein lies their ultimate demise. The price of candy goes up. The use of physical money, and among money of coinage, goes down. A gumball machine is a purely mechanical thing. Unless the government issues a dollar coin, which is unlikely, they will soon be, well, gone with the wind. A chrome sphere filled with luscious gum balls with a protruding electronic credit card reader is a sacrilege.
So I paused a moment the other day to take the photograph of Figure 1. It shows a soon to be obsolete gumball machine in all its prismatic glory. I spent a few moments in reverent contemplation. While someone is still turning a profit, the days of such machines cannot be long.