Wilbur's Chocolate

H.O. Wilbur & Sons, c. 1904, 14 1/2". This is an early 1-column dome machine, with a glass globe and (I think) a tin base. Bill Enes said this model "is very lightweight and could easily be knocked off the counter" and "with its fragile globe and lightweight base, it's not surprising that there are so few survivors." He's right; I haven't weighed it, but it's one of the lightest machines I own. It's also one of the most expensive models---if not the most expensive model---I can think of on a price-per-pound basis.

You put your penny into the coin slot in the lid, and the penny slides down through the machine to the mechanism at the bottom. Push the lever on the right, and a pack of chocolate is flung forward into the globe and then falls into the exit cup. Unlike the True Blue, which is another dome vendor with which I'm familiar, the mechanism on this seems to be cocked so that the lever acts like a trigger. Push down a little, a little more, a little more, and nothing happens, but push a little more and suddenly you reach a trigger point and a spring releases its energy all at once. Loudly. This strikes me as a harsh way to treat a piece of innocent chocolate, but it was a harsher world back then. No chocolate-rights advocates, and the press hadn't yet picked up on the plight of the common chocolate bar.

This model came with different decals, including a gold-on-cream Wilbur's, and gold-on-green Chiclets, and a gold-on-yellow Colgan's Taffy Tolu decal. These are shown on Silent Salesmen Too, page 148. There may be others, but I've not seen them.

Silent Salesmen Too attributes this machine to the National Vending Machine Co. They certainly have a role in it, but I'm not sure they made it themselves. The bottom of the decal pictured above says the following:


Based on this it looks like National commissioned its manufacture but didn't actually make it. If true, this relationship and accompanying perception among collectors would be analagous to that between some Ad-Lee machines and Columbus---everyone thinks of the Ad-Lee E-Z as an Ad-Lee product, but in fact Columbus made it for them and stamped Ad-Lee's name into the casting.

Within the sphere of early dome machines this may be the most common model. Despite that, there are far too few to go around to those who want one. Nice original examples are hard to find, and finding a nice original example that's available is much harder. If you want one, then I say good luck and be prepared to open your wallet for it.

The example pictured above is 100% original. The decal is thin but is nearly fully intact.



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