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Horn & Hardart, USA, 1944
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Horn & Hardart, USA, 1944 Horn & Hardart, USA, 1944

Horn & Hardart, USA, 1944


Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart, who introduced the idea of food vending machines to America, started in the restaurant business in 1888 when they opened a 15-stool luncheonette in Philadelphia.

Inspired by Automat restaurants in Berlin, the businessmen opened their first automat in 1902 in Philadelphia. Women called “nickel throwers” exchanged larger coins and bills for customers who were instructed to drop five cent pieces into slots, turn chrome-plated knobs and watch in amazement as glass-doored dispensers opened, offering take-out foods such as macaroni and cheese, spinach and baked beans.

In 1912, the duo expanded their business to New York and their slogan “less work for mother” popularized the idea of takeout foods as a cheap alternative to home-cooked food. Customers flocked to the coin-operated automats and to the company’s sit-down restaurants and cafeterias.

This 1944 menu, featuring a delightful cover of pyjama-clad babies playing with the feathered seeds released from the pod of a plant, was presumably to illustrate the one of the sit-down restaurant’s late opening hours. One of Horn and Hardart's specialties, seen on this menu, was its Gilt-Edge Coffee - a mix of coffee and chicory - which cost five cents.

By the 1940s, the company had 157 retail shops and restaurants, and it was estimated that its New York establishments served 350,000 customers a day. Meals cost about a dollar.

The restaurant chain remained popular until the 1960s when the rise of fast-food outlets began to eat into the business.

To see pictures of these amazing automated restaurants, far ahead of their time, search for Horn and Hardart images on Google.

Courtesy Private Collection.

Each print is accompanied by a copy of the interior menu where available.

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