Horn & Hardart
Philadelphia's Joseph Horn (1861–1941) and German-born, New Orleans-raised Frank Hardart (1850–1918) opened their first restaurant together in Philadelphia on December 22, 1888. The small (11 x 17 foot) lunchroom at 39 South Thirteenth Street had no tables, only a counter with 15 stools. Formerly, the location had housed the print shop of Dunlap & Claypoole, printers to the American Congress and George Washington.
By introducing Philadelphia to New Orleans-style coffee (blended with chicory), which Hardart promoted as their "gilt-edge" brew, they made their tiny luncheonette a local attraction. News of the coffee spread, and the business flourished. They incorporated as the Horn & Hardart Baking Company in 1898.
Inspired by Max Sielaff's AUTOMAT Restaurants in Berlin, they became among the first 47 restaurants, and the first non-europeans to receive patented vending machines from Max Sielaff's AUTOMAT GmbH Berlin factory, creators of the first chocolate bar vending machine. The first automat in the U.S. was opened June 12, 1902, at 818 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia by Horn & Hardart. The first New York Automat opened in Times Square July 2, 1912. Later that week, another opened at Broadway and East 14th Street, near Union Square.
In 1924, Horn & Hardart opened retail stores to sell prepackaged automat favorites. Using the advertising slogan "Less Work for Mother," the company popularized the notion of easily served "take-out" food as an equivalent to "home-cooked" meals.
The Horn & Hardart Automats were particularly popular during the Depression era when their macaroni and cheese, baked beans and creamed spinach were staple offerings. In the 1930s, union conflicts resulted in vandalism, as noted by Christopher Gray in The New York Times:
- In 1932 the police blamed members of the glaziers union for vandalism against 24 Horn & Hardart and Bickford's restaurants in Manhattan, including the one at 488 Eighth Avenue. Witnesses said that a passenger in a car driving by used a slingshot to damage and even break the plate glass show windows. Glaziers union representatives had complained about nonunion employees installing glass at the restaurants.
By the time of Horn's death in 1941, the business had 157 retail shops and restaurants in the Philadelphia and New York areas and served 500,000 patrons a day. During the 1940s and the 1950s, more than 50 New York Horn & Hardart restaurants served 350,000 customers a day.
In 1953, the company split into two independent corporations. The New York company was named the Horn & Hardart Company, while the Philadelphia company was named the Horn & Hardart Baking Company. New York was traded on the American Stock Exchange and Philadelphia was traded on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.
Coins and chrome
These cafeterias featured prepared foods behind small glass windows and coin-operated slots, beginning with buns, beans, fish cakes and coffee. These were popular, busy restaurants, where in the late 1950s, for under $1.00, one could enjoy a large, if somewhat plain meal, purchased with nickels usually obtained from the cashier. Each stack of glass-doored dispensers had a metal cylinder that could be rotated by the staff on the other side of the vending wall, hiding the contents while they refilled each dispenser in the stack with a plate of salad, pudding, meat or vegetables. Each dispenser had a slot for one or more nickels, and a knob to rotate the nickels out of view into the internal cash box and to allow the glass door to be raised up and locked in a horizontal position for easy removal of the plate or bowl of food. More expensive items required tokens valued up to 75¢ which were available from the cashier. Some of the rectangular dispensers were heated, some cooled. Eventually, they served lunch and dinner entrees, such as beef stew and Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes. The self-service restaurants operated in the city for nearly a century.
Carolyn Hughes Crowley described the appeal of the Automats:
- In huge rectangular halls filled with shiny, lacquered tables, women with rubber tips on their fingers— "nickel throwers," as they became known—in glass booths gave customers the five-cent pieces required to operate the food machines in exchange for larger coins and paper money. Customers scooped up their nickels, then slipped them into slots in the Automats and turned the chrome-plated knobs with their porcelain centers. In a few seconds the compartment next to the slot revolved into place to present the desired cold food to the customer through a small glass door that opened and closed. Diners picked up hot foods at buffet-style steam tables. The word "automat" comes from the Greek automatos, meaning "self-acting." But Automats weren’t truly automatic. They were heavily staffed. As a customer removed a compartment’s contents, a behind-the-machine human quickly slipped another sandwich, salad, piece of pie or coffee cake into the vacated chamber.
The restaurants remained popular into the 1960s with automats, sit-down waitress service restaurants, cafeterias, and bakery shops. In the late 1960s, consultants attempted to develop automats with interior decoration relevant to surrounding neighborhoods; thus, the Automat on 14th Street was decorated with psychedelic posters. The eateries began to close with the rise of fast-food restaurants. By the mid-1970s, at some locations, Burger King franchises replaced the automats. Horn & Hardart further expanded its fast food operations in 1981, with its acquisition of the Bojangles' Famous Chicken n' Biscuits restaurants, which it sold to a California investment company in 1990 for $20 million.
In 1979, Horn & Hardart agreed to buy the Royal Inn in Las Vegas for for $7.4 million. By late 1980, the sale had been completed, and the property was rebranded as the Royal Americana Hotel, with a New York theme. A $3.5 million renovation increased the room count to 300. By 1982 though, the hotel was experiencing substantial losses, and Horn & Hardart decided it to close it. They reportedly agreed that December to sell the property to an investment group for $15.4 million.
The last New York Horn & Hardart Automat (on the southeast corner of 42nd Street and Third Avenue) closed in April 1991. Horn & Hardart continued to own a catalog division; it renamed itself Hanover Direct in 1993. Hanover Direct bought Gump's in 1993 and sold it to an investment group in 2005. Hanover Direct, purchased International Male in 1987 when founder Gene Burkard retired.
Horn & Hardart opened two 1950s themed Dine-O-Mat restaurants in New York. They closed in 1989 after less than two years in operation. More recently, the Horn & Hardart name was used for a now-defunct chain of coffee shops in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Horn & Hardart Coffee Co. closed its last coffee shop in 2005. A company called Horn & Hardart Brands has a website, with a 2014 copyright, offering coffee and cheese spreads at Philadelphia area food stores.
A version of the current automats used in the Netherlands, was located in New York's East Village at 37 St. Mark's Place between Second Avenue and Third Avenue, but has since closed.
In the early 1990s two entrepreneurs bought the Philadelphia company (Horn & Hardart Baking Co.) out of bankruptcy. While they did not open any restaurants, they did reproduce a dozen of the most famous food items, including macaroni and cheese, Harvard beets, tapioca pudding and cucumber salad. The food was packaged fresh, refrigerated, and sold in supermarkets throughout Philadelphia and New Jersey. The food was still available up until 2002, then disappeared from the stores.
Radio and television
Beginning in 1927, Horn & Hardart sponsored a radio program, The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour, a variety show with a cast of children (including some who later as adults became well-known performers). The program was broadcast first on WCAU Radio in Philadelphia, hosted by Stan Lee Broza. It was broadcast on NBC Radio in New York during the 1940s and 1950s. The original New York host was Paul Douglas, succeeded by Ralph Edwards and finally Ed Herlihy.
The television premiere of The Horn & Hardart Children's Hour appeared on WCAU TV in Philadelphia in 1948, succeeded by WNBT(TV) in New York in 1949, telecast on Sunday mornings. Stan Lee Broza hosted in Philadelphia and Ed Herlihy in New York. Frankie Avalon was a frequent performer of the Children's Hour as a child prodigy trumpet player.
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has displayed in its cafe an ornate 35-foot Automat section, complete with mirrors, marble and marquetry, from Philadelphia’s 1902 Horn & Hardart. In November 2002, the Museum of the City of New York had a special Automat centennial exhibition featuring photographs, artifacts, original furniture, china and vending machine panels.
The New York Public Library opened an exhibition on June 22, 2012, titled "Lunch Hour NYC". The exhibition "looks back at more than a century of New York lunches, when the city's early power brokers invented the 'power lunch'...... and visitors with guidebooks thronged Times Square to eat lunch at the Automat." Among many educational and entertaining items is a fully restored wall of Automat windows. The exhibit was scheduled to run until February 17, 2013.
In popular culture
- Concerto for Horn and Hardart is a classical music parody written by Peter Schickele, one of many which he attributes to the fictional composer P.D.Q. Bach. The hardart in this composition is a musical instrument which is played by dropping coins into it to retrieve the implements used to actually play the notes. The hardart is inscribed Minor Labor Matris, Latin for the real Horn & Hardart slogan "Less Work for Mother."
- Artist Edward Hopper's Automat (painting) was painted in 1927. It is part of the collection of the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa.
- In Act II of Neil Simon's 1965 Broadway play The Odd Couple, during the discussion of how salvage dinner Cecily Pigeon advises "Well then, we can eat up in our place. We have tons of Horn & Hardart's."
- In the song "Colored Spade" from the musical Hair, the character Hud (a militant African-American) satirically assigns to himself various racial stereotypes including "Table cleaner at Horn & Hardart".
- Was mentioned in "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" (a book of short stories) by Jean Shepherd when Ralph says to Flick, "I was down at H&H," later explaining that he was talking about Horn & Hardart in New York City. This book inspired the movie "A Christmas Story" (1983).
- Was mentioned in the 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally ..." in one of the "interview" vignettes. A man with a German accent says he was at " 'Orn and 'Ardart" when he first saw the woman who would later become his wife.
- In the Doris Day - Cary Grant romantic comedy "That Touch of Mink" (1962), Doris Day's roommate (played by Audrey Meadows) works in a Horn and Hardart Automat in Midtown Manhattan. The movie also has several amusing comic bits involving the Automat's glass-door vending hatches.
- In the movie "Rocky" (1976), Horn and Hardart is mentioned in a scene between Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and Paulie (Burt Young) discussing Rocky's plans for Thanksgiving dinner.
- In the 1967 novel Rosemary's Baby, Horn and Hardart pumpkin pie is mentioned as the "best dessert".
- In the 1990 film "Metropolitan", pivotal plot points occur as the characters dine at a Horn & Hardart.
- In the 2013 Broadway play "The Nance," Nathan Lane's character, Chauncey Miles, frequents a Horn & Hardart Automat at a certain time of the evening when gay men congregate to find sexual partners.
- In the 14th episode of season 4 of Netflix's "Arrested Development" series, entitled "Off The Hook," Lucille 2 complains to her lover Buster Bluth that she is "nothing but a Horn & Hardart" to you, in response to him expecting her to mother him with food. Buster Bluth mistakes the name of the restaurant for sexual innuendo.
- In the Television Series "Agent Carter, 2015 the main characters are often meeting in the Automat in New York City. The Marvel Shield series is set in post WW2 New York City.
- Automat (painting)
- Max Sielaff(inventor)
- Bickford's Cafeterias: New York, Boston, Miami, San Francisco
- "Frank Hardart, Sr.". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
- Find a Grave: Frank Hardart Sr.
- Automat-Restaurants - AUTOMAT GmbH, 23 Spenerstrasse, Berlin, N.W. :: Trade Catalogs and Pamphlets - oclc
- "Horn & Hardart Automat, 968 6th Ave. between 35th & 36th Sts. (1986)", 36th Street, New York City Signs -- 14th to 42nd Street.
- Find A Grave: Joseph V. Horn
- Hardart, Marianne and Lorraine B. Daily The Automat: The History, Recipes, and Allure of Horn & Hardart's Masterpiece. Clarkson Potter, 2002.
- Gray, Christopher. "Streetscapes," The New York Times, June 3, 2001.
- "Joseph V. Horn, Automat Chain Co-Founder Dies," The Washington Post, October 15, 1941, p. 23.
- Crowley, Carolyn Hughes. "Meet Me at the Automat," Smithsonian Magazine, August 2001.
- "Closing the Automat Door," by Peter Mikelbank, The Washington Post, September 7, 1975, p. 135.
- Acquisitions, The Washington Post, August 30, 1990, pg. C2.
- "Horn & Hardart to buy Royal Inn in Las Vegas for about $7.4 million". Wall Street Journal (via ProQuest). June 20, 1979. Retrieved 2012-05-16. (subscription required)
- "Hotel's name change nearly complete (Advertising supplement)". Los Angeles Times (via ProQuest). October 12, 1980. Retrieved 2012-05-16. (subscription required)
- "Horn & Hardart to close hotel". New York Times. March 2, 1982. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
- "Royal Americana Hotel and Casino renovated (Advertising supplement)". Los Angeles Times (via ProQuest). March 1, 1981. Retrieved 2012-05-16. (subscription required)
- "Las Vegas also feeling sting of recession". Lawrence Journal-World. New York Times News Service. December 16, 1982. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
- "Slices of History: At New York's Last Automat only the Ambiance is the Same," by David Streitfeld, The Washington Post, April 24, 1988, p. 66.
- Michael Klein (8 August 1994). "Horn & Hardart Foods Are Back". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- "Lunch Hour NYC". The New York Public Library. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- Schickele, Peter. The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach. Random House. pp. 173–174. ISBN 0-394-46536-9.
- "Hair - Colored Spade". allthelyrics.com. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- "Hair Cast Lyrics, Colored Spade lyrics". Retrieved Oct 26, 2011.
- Freeland, David. "How I Love the Automat/The Place Where All the Food Is At." Life, March 22, 1928, p. 6. (Source: David Freeland, Automats, Taxi Dances and Vaudeville)
- NPR Sound Portrait: "Last Day at the Automat": Audio documentary with David Isay at the Automat on April 9. 1991
- Tribute site by Lorraine B. Diehl and Marianne Hardart, great-granddaughter of Frank Hardart
- Biography of Joseph V. Horn
- Biography of Frank Hardart, Sr.
- Automat used equipment
- Horn & Hardart Automat sign at 968 6th Avenue, NYC, 1986
- Automat Restaurants :: Trade Catalogs and Pamphlets - oclc
- In Praise of the Automat - slideshow by Life magazine
- "The Last Automat," by James T. Farrell (New York, May 14, 1979)