Restaurants began using business cards back as far as the 1840s, but most of the early ones in the antiques and collectibles market date from the 1870s and 1880s. Although they are referred to as Victorian trade cards that people saved in scrapbooks, they are essentially business cards that give the restaurant’s name and address, sometimes with a short menu on the back side. I present here some of my favorites, from the late nineteenth century up to today. [above, a ca. 1950s die-cut card] These are some good ones “we think” (see Tom’s Drive-In below).
The Senate Cafe, ca. 1915, was almost certainly a drinking spot first and foremost but the dour Mr. Smith probably provided the boys with light refreshments too. — From around the same time or a little later, Boldt’s, Seattle. The “Cosy Boxes” were for baked goods to take home.
Below: cards I’ve picked up in recent years. Clockwise from top left: Northampton MA; Webster Groves MO; City Cafe, Rochester MN; Girl & the Goat, Chicago [turned on end to fit]; Greenfield MA; NYC.
© Jan Whitaker, 2015
I had a pleasant surprise when I looked over my numbers for the past year and discovered that my page views had increased by 78%. As a “niche blogger” my biggest question is whether anyone is reading what I write and I am happy to report you are. Thank you!
My “Tastes of a decade” posts are so popular that I decided to make them easier to find by gathering them together on a special page. Now my mission is to fill in missing decades, starting with 1910-1920 and 1970-1980.
Just like last year, readers continue to be attracted to the well-loved restaurants of the past, the London Chop House, Schrafft’s, and Maxwell’s Plum. But even they were outdone. A new TV show set in Miami Beach in 1959 called “Magic City” propelled my 2011 post on Wolfie’s into the rank of second most visited post of 2012! Taste of a decade: 1920s restaurants, written way back in 2008, continued as no. 1.
Holding its own quite nicely is one of my favorites — “You want cheese with that?” – written over three years ago.
Two posts I wrote in 2012 made it into this year’s Top 20. One of them surprised me: Miss Hulling’s cafeteria in St. Louis. Maybe the traffic it attracted is accounted for by someone linking to it but so far I haven’t detected any evidence of that. Ice cream parlors, published in August, was the other top new post. The popularity of this one is easy to explain: it was chosen as a featured post by WordPress.
I am constantly adding to my list of ideas for future posts, so much so that it never seems to get any shorter. Some topics in the pipeline are: Greek-American restaurants, Nick’s Nest (a hotdog stand in Holyoke MA), sawdust floors, frozen entrées, menu design, chains of theme restaurants, and lunch wagons. If I can find enough material I’d love to write about the Kahiki in Columbus OH, which was perhaps the most exuberant example of a Polynesian restaurant in this country. A reader has suggested writing about Bookbinder’s in Philadelphia. So, as usual I expect to be working on many topics simultaneously.
Best wishes to everyone for a happy new year!