Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America

Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America

by Jan Whitaker
     
 

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The Gypsy Tea Kettle. Polly's Cheerio Tea Room. The Mad Hatter. The Blue Lantern Inn. These are just a few of the many tea rooms - most owned and operated by women — that popped up across America at the turn of the last century, and exploded into a full-blown craze by the 1920s. Colorful, cozy, festive, and inviting, these new-fangled eateries offered women a

Overview

The Gypsy Tea Kettle. Polly's Cheerio Tea Room. The Mad Hatter. The Blue Lantern Inn. These are just a few of the many tea rooms - most owned and operated by women — that popped up across America at the turn of the last century, and exploded into a full-blown craze by the 1920s. Colorful, cozy, festive, and inviting, these new-fangled eateries offered women a way to celebrate their independence and creativity. Sparked by the Suffragist movement, Prohibition, and the rise of the automobile, tea rooms forever changed the way America eats out, and laid the groundwork for the modern small restaurant and coffee bar.

In this lively, well-researched book, Jan Whitaker brings us back to the exciting days when countless American women dreamed of opening their own tea room - and many did. From the Bohemian streets of New York's Greenwich Village to the high-society tea rooms of Chicago's poshest hotels, from the Colonial roadside tea houses of New England to the welcoming bungalows of California, the book traces the social, artistic, and culinary changes the tea room helped bring about.

Anyone interested in women's history, the early days of the automobile, the Bohemian lives of artists in Greenwich Village, and the history of food and drink will revel in this spirited, stylish, and intimate slice of America's past.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Food writer Whitaker carves out a niche—a very small niche—in history: the rise and decline of the American tea-room during the first half of the 20th century. The boom in tea-rooms began in 1910 and ended in the '50s, when their image was fixed as a bastion of women's middle-class convention (think Schrafft's). Not so, says Whitaker. The upsurge in tea-rooms reflected profound social change. At the turn of the century, tea-rooms in hotels and department stores were among the few public places unescorted women could go for refreshment, and there were not many of them. By 1925, they had proliferated in cities, suburbs, and rural areas across the US. The author attributes this phenomenon to three developments: the rising independence of women, unsatisfied with their dining choices; the surge in automobile ownership, which made the country tea-room an attractive Sunday drive destination; and Prohibition, which put tea-rooms on a competitive basis with restaurants that could no longer serve liquor. The author examines menus and decor, designed for the most part by and for women and heavy on Colonial themes (fireplaces and spinning wheels). She also reports on subcategories of tea-rooms, including those in Greenwich Village, which boasted a bohemian atmosphere and unconventional hours. Roadside tea-rooms prided themselves on cleanliness and fresh food; in the cities, working women found tea-rooms a haven for lunch; on college campuses, they became student hangouts. Spinning-wheel motifs were superseded by sometimes outrageous whimsy as Russian and gypsy tea-rooms came into vogue. A support industry emerged, with college courses, trade magazines, and how-to books and articlesavailable for the tea-room entrepreneur. The author connects the dots between tea-rooms and social change, but the picture that emerges is a rough sketch, even for its limited audience. (8 pp. color photos, not seen; 85 b&w illustrations)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312290641
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
12/28/2002
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
7.45(w) x 9.38(h) x 0.85(d)

Meet the Author

Jan Whitaker is a freelance writer and editor who writes about food and the history of American consumer culture. Her subjects have included fad diets, breakfast cereals, and women restaurateurs. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she has been collecting tea room memorabilia for over ten years.

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