(Click on image to enlarge it)
Specialty Mfg. Co., c. 1915, 14 1/2". I consider this to be the third in a series of 3 vendors that are similar in heritage, style, and construction but---according to Silent Salesmen Too---differ in patent dates and manufacturers. The other two in the series are the Safety Match Vending Co. match vendor and the Samuel Cupples match vendor . According to Silent Salesmen Too, the heritage starts with John Krcma, who used "Krema" in his company's name since no one could pronounce his real name. Silent Salesmen Too explicitly attributes the origin of this model to John Krcma's patent of 1915, and attributes the model's manufacture to Krema Mfg. Co. and the Specialty Mfg. Co. Turns out that Krema made the machine through the mid-1920's and then "disappeared," after which Specialty began churning them out. Between the 2 companies, over 100,000 were sold. I don't know if Bill Enes was implying anything mysterious, but the term "disappeared" in this context certainly conjures up thoughts of foul play......or is it just me?
This is a solidly-built 4-column vendor that sold standard-sized boxes of safety matches. The entire front plate is cast iron and comes off as a single unit. The mechanism is contained within, or attached to the back of, this plate. The cast iron front plate gives this machine considerable heft, although it's a bit front-heavy. That normally doesn't matter, but if you set it on the edge of a table you'll want to be sure that the front is securely on the table and not hanging over the edge.
Silent Salesmen Too says "through the years there were a lot of variations," and both companies private-labeled these for jobbers, so the examples pictured above are just that---examples. The only variations I've readily noticed are the case material and the finish on the front plate. I've seen cases made of wood---oak or mahogany, according to Silent Salesmen Too---while some are made of sheet metal. I believe that the wood cases are earlier, but I don't have any specific evidence for that other than that's the usual historical sequence. Regardless of sequence, in my opinion the wood cases are more attractive. The front plate was available porcelainized instead of painted, and an example of this is pictured above on the right. I don't know whether the porcelain version is later, earlier, or concurrent with the painted version---it may have just been an upgrade, probably for an extra 25 cents at the time of purchase. Seems sickeningly cheap now, doesn't it?
The examples pictured above are 100% original.
©Small Vintage Vending 2003-2009