Automats: Giving Lunch the Impersonal Touch

A machine that could serve milk steaming hot or ice-cold, that never spilled a drop and never needed cleaning – such was the dream of German school administrators who were after an innovative way of meeting their pupils’ nutritional needs. In 1903 that dream became reality with the introduction into schools throughout Berlin of the Milch-Automat, a technological wonder that, as revealed in an issue of The Modern Review, subtracted the human element from the dairy-delivery equation. A coin dropped into the machine sent “a waterproof paper cup … down in an opening” to catch a jet of the “very finest quality milk” with ease and exactness. And, true to its promise, the Milch-Automat proved an exceedingly clean machine, flushing itself every so often by “a mechanical process” that kept it “scientifically sanitary.”

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