Food in 19th-Century American Cities
Summary and Keywords
Over the course of the 19th century, American cities developed from small seaports and trading posts to large metropolises. Not surprisingly, foodways and other areas of daily life changed accordingly. In 1800, the dietary habits of urban Americans were similar to those of the colonial period. Food provisioning was very local. Farmers, hunters, fishermen, and dairymen from a few miles away brought food by rowboats and ferryboats and by horse carts to centralized public markets within established cities. Dietary options were seasonal as well as regional. Few public dining options existed outside of taverns, which offered lodging as well as food. Most Americans, even in urban areas, ate their meals at home, which in many cases were attached to their workshops, countinghouses, and offices.
These patterns changed significantly over the course of the19th century, thanks largely to demographic changes and technological developments. By the turn of the 20th century, urban Americans relied on a food-supply system that was highly centralized and in the throes of industrialization. Cities developed complex restaurant sectors, and majority immigrant populations dramatically shaped and reshaped cosmopolitan food cultures. Furthermore, with growing populations, lax regulation, and corrupt political practices in many cities, issues arose periodically concerning the safety of the food supply. In sum, the roots of today’s urban food systems were laid down over the course of the 19th century.
With the growth of American cities in the 19th century, urban foodways became increasingly complex. Among the developments that occurred were the shift from public markets to retail food shops as the main suppliers of urbanites’ daily necessities, the emergence of restaurants, the increasing immigrant influence on urban foodways, industrialization of the food system, and the development of certain cities as food-processing centers. Food history is a burgeoning field, and historians are just beginning to explore the intersections between urban growth and foodways, seeing food as a lens for understanding the growth of cities and vice versa.
A host of technological developments—from canal and railroad building to the manufacturing of ice and the creation of refrigerated railcars—indelibly altered urban American foodways during the 19th century. The most crucial of these developments involved new forms of transportation that eased and cheapened the carriage of foodstuffs from rural to urban areas. The opening of the Erie Canal heralded an era of canal building throughout the country and revolutionized shipping, allowing for the vast expansion of domestic agricultural markets. Before the artificial river opened in 1825, the cost to transport agricultural goods overland trebled their value. The canal reduced these costs by almost 100 percent and contributed to the overnight growth of cities along its route, including Buffalo, Troy, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester, New York.
The waterway also transformed agriculture in New York State, extending New York City’s hinterlands to the Midwest via the Great Lakes. Upstate and western farms turned to production of durable agricultural goods—especially wheat and other grains—while areas closer to the city that had previously produced wheat turned to dairy production. The city’s immediate hinterlands—Long Island, New Jersey, Staten Island—abandoned grain and livestock and switched from extensive to intensive agriculture, focusing on the most delicate and perishable fruits and vegetables for the New York market. On the whole, more goods came into the city than ever before and at a far cheaper cost to the consumer.
The Erie Canal’s impact reached far beyond New York State. Manufacturers and farmers from the Philadelphia area used the canal route to ship goods to and from western Pennsylvania. Cities as far away as Savannah, Georgia, availed themselves of northeastern and midwestern farm products for far less money than it cost to transport the bulky grain from within the state. Other states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, also rushed to compete with the lucrative Erie Canal, building their own canal systems in the 1830s and 1840s. A canal completed in 1848 connected Chicago to the Illinois River, paving the way for that city’s tremendous expansion in the second half of the 19th century.
The canal era, while crucial in its impact, was nonetheless short-lived. An even quicker, cheaper, and more expansive transportation system emerged in the 1840s. By 1860 the railroad supplanted the canal as the primary system of transport for agricultural goods around the country. Like canals, railroads considerably cheapened the cost of carrying agricultural goods across long distances. The speedy form of transit so shortened the distances between rural areas and cities that locations far afield were able to service one another’s market needs. Thus, southern cities like Norfolk, Virginia, became major suppliers of the produce needs of cities up north. Railroads carried peas from New Orleans to Chicago and peaches from the inland Carolinas and Georgia to the southern seaports from whence they were shipped to the cities of the Northeast and beyond. Another transportation improvement—steam-powered ships—brought fruit from Cuba, the Caribbean, and even Central America to the markets of eastern cities.
The new transportation networks also improved the quality of food entering American cities. Cattle that rode to market on railcars were fed a regular diet en route rather than grazing along the way. These cows thus yielded more tender and tastier meat than those that had walked hundreds of miles. Similarly, pigs that were bred for taste rather than for ability to walk to market offered better meat after slaughter. Foods that previously had perished during travel along rudimentary roads now endured long distances without spoiling. Railroads carried milk from rural areas to far-off cities, oysters from New York City to Buffalo, wild game from Iowa to Baltimore, salmon from Maine to Philadelphia, even lobster from the East Coast to Chicago.
Finally, the canals and railroads made food-processing centers out of small towns at their termini. Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, and Kansas City emerged as important suppliers and processors of agricultural products thanks in part to their location on transportation routes. From there, they grew into important cities.
Technologies related directly to food storage, preservation, and processing also contributed to the transformation of urban food habits. Among the most important were those involved in the commercial production and storage of ice. American commercial ice production can be traced to the 1820s, with two important technological advances—an improved ice cutter that allowed ice companies to harvest ice from lakes and improvements to the icehouse that vastly reduced waste from melting. The horse-drawn ice cutter was a grooved saw, dragged across a lake to create a groove pattern. Large ice blocks were then floated to shore, briefly stored in icehouses, and then broken up and shipped in coolers via horse cart to nearby cities. There, icemen delivered them door to door to subscribers. The ice industry was confined to the North in the 19th century and serviced cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
The earliest customers for commercial ice were breweries, restaurants, markets, and grocery stores. By the mid-19th century, however, the iceman—delivering ice to individual homes—was a fixture on northern city streets. Householders posted a note in their windows stipulating how much ice they required, and the iceman would deposit a block in that amount in the box placed in front of the house. Inside the urban home—particularly those belonging to the middle class—iceboxes (which contemporaries called refrigerators) became a fixture. Eventually, the refrigerator lessened the need for daily marketing, affecting the patterns of household life in the 19th-century city. The device also required maintenance, cleaning, and ice delivery, so in some ways it added to the work of homemakers and their servants.
Ice also allowed for refrigeration of railcars. This development was crucial to shifts in the urban food chain. Refrigeration enabled certain cities to emerge as central processing centers of perishable food. Chicago, in particular, grew into the nation’s central meat-processing center at this time. The city enjoyed a reputation for meat processing even before the Civil War, but it faced limits. Once the refrigerated railcar was implemented and perfected, largely at the behest of Chicago meat barons Gustavus Swift and Philip Danforth Armour, the city quickly became the nation’s preeminent meatpacking center. Meatpacking factories were mechanized as well; slaughtering, processing, and packing took place along assembly lines, operated by immigrant laborers. The packing and transport of meat was horizontally and vertically integrated. Butchered cows and pigs traveled directly from refrigerated factories to refrigerated railcars and from there along rail lines to markets throughout the country.
Other food industries also consolidated in the late 19th century, forming horizontally and vertically integrated conglomerates based in U.S. cities. Along with Chicago’s National Packing Company, or beef trust (a cooperative created by meat packing giants Armour, Morris, and Swift) Brooklyn’s American Sugar Refining Company (commonly called the Sugar Trust) and New York City’s National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) cornered their respective markets. Large food brands such as Borden’s Milk (New York), Campbell’s Soup (Camden), Heinz (Pittsburgh), Pillsbury (Minneapolis), and Zatarain’s (New Orleans) also emerged during this period.
Food-safety issues arose periodically over the course of the 19th century because of the absence of any regulation of large conglomerates or small, food-related businesses. The milk supply was of particular concern, as distilleries in places like New York, Chicago, and Cincinnati paired with dairies within the city limits. The cows at these dairies often fed on the leftover grain that was discarded during the distillery process. These cows produced “swill milk,” a thinned-down, alcohol-laden variety that medical professionals and reformers decried throughout the 19th century. These pundits blamed swill milk for sickening and even killing city residents, especially poor children whose families could not afford to import milk from the countryside. The cows themselves were sickened—penned into cramped stables and subject to inhumane conditions. In some cases, when these cows died, their meat found its way to the markets of the cities to be sold as cheap cuts. Despite outcry against these practices, pure milk reform succeeded only at the turn of the 20th century, and even then only at the local level. Likewise, unsanitary practices in the meat industry, exposed in the early 20th century with Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle, led to federal laws regulating food-based industries.
By the end of the 19th century, more Americans than ever before lived in large towns and cities and relied on industrialized, centralized food-distribution networks rather than providing for their own dietary needs or patronizing local producers. Giant corporations supplied Americans with bread and wheat, which was replacing corn, oats, and barley as the primary grain consumed by Americans. Large, industrializing farms produced livestock, which were slaughtered and packed in centralized stockyards in Chicago and Cincinnati. Local fruits and vegetables shared space in the markets with tropical fruits from far afield, such as lemons and limes from Italy and pineapples from the Caribbean. Meats, vegetables, fruits, condensed milk, and soup were canned and bottled in factories and shipped to grocery stores around the country. Agricultural crossroads emerged into metropolises, central processing and distribution centers for the nation’s foodstuffs.
Public Markets and Private Food Shops
With increasingly vast and complex supply systems, the distribution of foodstuffs to and within American cities changed significantly as well. The highly regulated public market system inherited from the colonial period was complemented—and in most cases replaced by—a system of private food shops and markets that served the retail food needs of urban Americans.
The governments of older cities had established public markets during the colonial era. Initially, specific days were designated for nearby farmers, hunters, dairymen, fishermen, and artisans to sell their goods to city dwellers on the town commons. By the 19th century, these public market days were codified into market systems with multiple market houses and functions regulated by the city to protect the public health and pocketbook as well as the prerogatives of fee-paying market vendors. Some market houses gained fame within and beyond their cities—Boston’s Faneuil Hall; New York’s Washington, Fulton, and Jefferson Markets; and the French Market in New Orleans.
In the antebellum period, market vendors usually were also the producers of the meats, produce, fish, and game they sold. Every day except Sunday, farmers carried their goods via horse cart and in some cases ferryboat; hunters and fishermen carted overland and sailed to shore with their catch; drovers walked cattle, sheep, and pigs from Ohio and Connecticut to Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and other eastern cities.
Within the cities, food-related artisans enjoyed strong guilds and important craft traditions. Most prominent among these artisans were bakers and butchers. Members of these trades marched proudly at the front of the line in early national processions, protested loudly when their prerogatives were violated (for example, market regulations protecting butchers’ exclusive right to sell meat in New York’s antebellum markets), and sat at the center of a raucous, bawdy workingmen’s culture as their working conditions deteriorated with the decline of the artisan tradition in the middle decades of the 19th century.
In addition to providing foodstuffs to antebellum urbanites, public markets also served as important civic institutions, as historian Helen Tangires argues.1 Municipal offices, the night watch, and the police force might be located in the top floors of urban market houses, expanding the function of these buildings beyond food provisioning. The public markets also served as central gathering places for people from varying backgrounds.
A variety of private food shops complemented the antebellum market system. Primary among these shops were grocery stores, which traced their history to the early colonial period. Colonial grocers imported and sold wines, liquors, spices, teas, coffee, and prepared preserved foods such as salted fish, olives, catsups, and pickles from Europe and the West Indies. Grocery stores often were located near the docks or near the public markets, contributing to the establishment of proto-shopping districts even in the colonial seaports. Other types of private food shops included bakeries, pastry shops, and confectioners. In many cases, the latter were established by French immigrants to the United States.
In the days before refrigeration, daily shopping was a necessity, and the season shaped the market offerings. The summer months were most abundant and diverse, with stone fruits, berries, apples, tomatoes, watermelons, lettuces, and other warm-weather produce crowding the tables under the market-house roofs. Food also spoiled quickest in these months, and observers noted the rapidity with which meat spoiled and vegetables wilted. Even milk had to be consumed or turned into butter or cheese within a few hours of exiting the cow. Market meats also were seasonal: veal appeared in the spring, lamb in the summer, and pork in the fall. Beef was available year-round.
By necessity, market provisioners were local, so region influenced what was available. In the case of New York, shoppers could find nearby produce such as root vegetables in the winter; melons, berries, and stone fruits in the summer months; and apples year-round. Gotham’s location near the sea meant that its fish markets were well stocked with offerings such as shad, trout, salmon, shrimp, lobster, and oysters, which became emblematic of New York City in the 19th century. New Orleans’ French Market had more tropical merchandise, including bananas (very rare in northeastern cities until the 20th century), pineapples, coconuts, oranges, and limes as well as an amazing variety of shellfish, including crab, lobster, shrimps, and “enormous oysters, many of which it would certainly be of necessity to cut up into four mouthfuls, before eating,” according to a description that Charles Dickens reprinted in his 1874 All the Year Round.2
Newer cities set up marketing networks quickly and in an ad hoc fashion. For example, in San Francisco, which rapidly urbanized following the 1849 gold rush, few commercial farmers existed to provision the city. The winter months offered little in terms of fresh fruits and vegetables until farmers in nearby Santa Cruz began to grow peas, beans, squashes, turnips, carrots, quinces, pears, plums, and other fresh produce for San Francisco’s residents. Meat, game and fish also began to appear on the city’s market tables. By the 1850s, farmers from Southern California and Oregon were provisioning the city by the bay, and imported goods found their way to the markets as well. Wholesale food provisioning became centralized along Sansome Street and Colombo Market, in businesses dominated by Italian immigrants. Along the commercial wharves, fishmongers sold fresh and prepared fish—especially crabs—from boats and shacks along the docks.
While the public markets held sway in the antebellum period, private shops began to take over retail functions by the mid-19th century. Meanwhile, the large public markets shifted primarily to offering wholesale services. This development was certainly true of New York, whose municipal government deregulated the public markets in 1843, allowing private butchers and grocers to sell fresh meats, previously limited to public markets. Here, regulation followed practice; since the 1830s, the city had grown geographically, but the municipal government built no public markets in its newer neighborhoods. By the 1850s, most New Yorkers obtained their daily necessities from private food shops, which were provisioned by the public markets on a wholesale basis.
In Philadelphia, on the other hand, the markets themselves were privatized in the 1800s, twenty private markets opening in the second half of the century. The private markets that began to proliferate in the cities of Pennsylvania, like the private food shops catering to middle- and upper-class New Yorkers, were well appointed and hygienic and incorporated the latest technologies for refrigeration, ventilation, and transportation.
While privatization and the move away from public retail markets happened in the 20th century only in cities such as New Orleans, the trend was set toward private groceries for retail needs. Newer cities, like those in the Midwest, established and built public markets in the 1860s and therefore were more interested in protecting their municipal investments. The public markets of St. Louis, Dubuque, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati thus remained predominant over private food shops even as their East Coast counterparts waned in importance (in terms of retail function) in eastern cities.
In addition to the public markets and brick-and-mortar food shops, itinerant food vendors were iconic figures in most 19th-century cities. In the beginning of the century, the trade was dominated by single-item vendors, often poor women selling goods to support their families. By the end of the century, pushcart vendors predominated, selling items from sturdy carts in the immigrant wards of the city.
In the early republican city, huckstering—selling market goods outside of the market houses from baskets and bins, sometimes door to door—served as a form of welfare work. Poor women dominated the huckstering trade, which offered a meager and scant subsistence and often involved scavenging merchandise from city streets, docks, and wharves.
Most street vendors focused on an individual food item—strawberries, radishes, peanuts, or the most famous item in antebellum New York—hot corn. The hot corn vendor, invariably a poor woman, walked the streets of Gotham selling ears of corn on the cob to a familiar cry: “Hot corn, hot corn, here’s your lily white hot corn!” These cries were compiled into children’s books bearing such names as New York Street Cries in Rhyme and Cries of Philadelphia.3 Iconic street vendors in Philadelphia included the pepper-pot vendor, who sold a highly seasoned meat soup. Like the hot corn girls of New York, pepper-pot vendors were usually African American women. In New Orleans black women sold pralines through the streets of the Crescent City well into the 20th century.
In Charleston, South Carolina, the street cries “offered an African twist on an Old World Theme,” explains culinary historian Jessica B. Harris.4 Hucksters in the southern city sold produce they raised themselves in gardens behind the slave quarters or cooked on stoves inside—cake, milk, fruit, vegetables, and grains—throughout the streets of the city. Enslaved persons selling goods from their gardens had to be registered with the city by their owners. The vendors were required to purchase and carry a badge asserting their right to sell foodstuffs on the city streets. Other cities with enslaved populations, including Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York City (until 1827), had similar systems for overseeing food-based economic transactions on the part of enslaved workers.
As the cities’ market systems grew more complex, the numbers and kinds of street vendors expanded, incorporating pushcarts where all manner of foodstuffs was sold—produce, milk, oysters, clams, and root beer, among the offerings. By the mid-19th century immigrant men who sold goods from carts increasingly replaced the itinerant female hucksters. They sold old standbys as well as some newer items that reflected the increasing ethnic diversity of American cities—German vendors offered pretzels and sausages; Chinese salesmen peddled rock candy; Italian peddlers hawked fruits and vegetables. Regional variations determined the iconic street foods of different cities. For example, by the 1880s, San Francisco’s most famous street food was the tamale. The San Francisco Chronicle explained in 1884 that “the tamale is eaten in a small way by persons of all classes in the city, though,” the paper admitted, “in many instances the first eating has been purely experimental.”5 Meanwhile in the second half of the 19th century, the term huckster came to denote not a desperate woman supporting her family but rather a duplicitous middleman seeking to undercut market prices while avoiding licensing and leasing fees.
Restaurants and Public Dining
The restaurant was a purely urban phenomenon in the 19th century. Small towns and rural areas contained taverns and hotels that served travelers and might entertain locals on an occasional basis. But the freestanding restaurant was found, at this point, only in cities. Restaurants emerged to suit the needs particular to expanding cities—places to serve hot lunches to male workers whose offices, workshops, and factories were newly at a distance from their homes; venues for travelers and tourists who hoped to eat meals away from their hotels; refectories for boardinghouse dwellers; and social centers for newly arrived immigrants. A new phenomenon on the urban scene in 1800, restaurants had become a central part of the fabric of cities by the end of the 19th century. A vast range of restaurants existed, catering to urbanites of various economic levels and social backgrounds.
As the 19th century opened, American cities offered few public dining options. Among them were taverns and hotels, where meals were included in the price of lodgings, and food businesses that had tables where patrons could eat food purchased on premises (for example, confectionery shops). The geographic growth of the cities in the antebellum period, however, necessitated new institutions to cater to commuters and travelers who either worked too far from home to return there for meals or who sought dining options outside of their hotels and taverns.
New York City led the way in new forms of public dining. While Gotham did not pioneer the restaurant (that distinction goes to Paris), New York did create a template that other cities soon replicated. Furthermore, many successful restaurateurs in cities throughout the country trained in the kitchens of New York City restaurants. The first freestanding restaurants in New York followed two tracks—high-end restaurants that emerged from the city’s luxury hotels and low-end, short-order houses that catered to men commuting down to the city’s financial district from newer residential neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts. Delmonico’s was by far the most famous elite restaurant. Operated by the Swiss-born Delmonico brothers, the restaurant opened in 1827 as a simple confectionery shop on William Street in Lower Manhattan. In 1830, the brothers expanded their operation into a full-service restaurant. Delmonico’s distinguished itself by its food and service and truly introduced fine dining to the United States. Delmonico’s employed a French chef and pioneered such dishes as Lobster Newburg and Baked Alaska.
Over the course of the 19th century, Delmonico’s developed into a minichain, opening several outposts in Manhattan, each more opulent than the previous one. Memoirist Abram Dayton raved about one Delmonico branch’s “frescoed ceilings, mirrored halls, and sumptuous appointments,” proclaiming: “One cannot fail to be impressed by the absence of bustle and confusion, no boisterous commands are heard, and the waiters glide about as noiselessly as ghosts. An air of luxury surrounds you as the attentive garcon stands motionless before you, and respectfully awaits your wishes.”6 Delmonico’s served as a model for restaurants in other cities and several (including those in Louisville, New Orleans, and even London) borrowed its imprimatur, either by declaring themselves to be the Delmonico’s of that city or by adopting the Delmonico’s name itself.
Far more common than the luxury fine-dining restaurant was the downtown short-order restaurant. Also known as “sixpenny houses” because individual dishes cost six pence, these restaurants, such as Sweeney’s, Dunlop’s, and Sweet’s, opened in the 1820s and catered to men commuting down to the city’s financial district from newer residential neighborhoods on the city’s peripheries. So connected were these early restaurants to the development of the commuter city that the New York Times—later the NY Times—subtitled a feature article in the 1850s about the city’s restaurants, “The Eating Houses—How New Yorkers Sleep Up Town and Eat Down Town.”7 The atmosphere of the sixpenny houses was a far cry from the hushed, refined tones of Delmonico’s. At Sweeney’s and establishments of its ilk, the cacophony of clattering dishes and waiters bawling out orders offered the soundscape for the rush of customers whose entire meal from entry to departure lasted an average of twenty minutes. The food was notoriously bad—tough meat, lukewarm vegetables, and weak coffee. Journalist George Foster wryly summed up the gastronomical environment: “It is really wonderful how men of refined tastes and pampered habits . . . find it in their hearts—or stomachs either—to gorge such disgusting masses of stringy meat and tepid vegetables, and to go about their business again under the fond delusion that they have dined.”8
Indeed, on the whole, Americans fast developed a reputation for poor eating habits. English visitor Frances Trollope remarked with disgust upon dining habits she witnessed on a steamboat, where she observed “the total want of all the usual courtesies of the table.” She decried “the voracious rapidity with which the viands were seized and devoured . . . the loathsome spitting . . . the frightful manner of feeding with their knives, till the whole blade seemed to enter into the mouth; and the still more frightful manner of cleaning the teeth afterwards with a pocket knife.”9 New Yorkers’ eating habits came up for special derision, so busy were Gothamites making money that they had no time to focus on culinary matters.
Beginning in the 1830s, restaurants emerged in New York and other cities that specifically sought the ladies’ trade. These establishments provided a “safe” space where women who were concerned about their reputations could dine in public, usually among other ladies. Ladies’ eateries distinguished themselves by their interiors, which were richly furnished and decorated and replicated the private, middle-class parlor. The emergence of the ladies’ restaurants reflected the somewhat salacious reputation that restaurants earned in the 19th century, related as they were to other commercial entertainments, including theater and prostitution.
The only 19th-century city that challenged New York in terms of the extent and sophistication of its restaurant culture was New Orleans. Like Gotham, the Crescent City was home to some of the nation’s most famous and well-regarded early restaurants, some still extant—including the legendary Antoine’s and Commander’s Palace. In 1840, the French immigrant Antoine Alciatore opened Antoine’s—the first known restaurant in New Orleans. The institution has served French Creole food ever since and is still run by descendants of Alciatore. In the 1850s, Antoine’s was joined by butcher shop turned Creole restaurant Begue’s and by Tujaque’s and Bruning’s. Tajaque’s later moved to the Begue’s site when the latter closed in 1914. The seafood restaurant Bruning’s operated continuously from 1859 until damage from Hurricane Katrina forced it to close down permanently. The legendary Café du Monde also traces its history to the 19th century, when it opened as a coffeehouse in the French Market in 1862.
As the nation’s cities grew, each developed its own distinct restaurant culture, offering up regional variations. Chinese proprietors dominated San Francisco’s restaurants. Many of these restaurants served a Euro-focused menu, but a few high-end Chinese restaurants in the city catered exclusively to white patrons. In 1890s San Antonio, Texas, diners could order tacos and enchiladas alongside rice and beans, a nod both to the culinary traditions of Native Americans and Spanish settlers as well as to the tastes of more recent Anglo arrivals. This Tex-Mex food was featured alongside other “ethnic” cuisines at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. Mexican influence on local cuisine was evident in San Francisco as well, where restaurants served tamales and “tortillas and frijoles.” Not surprisingly, Washington, DC had a very cosmopolitan dining scene, featuring German, Italian, Chinese, and Tex-Mex dishes.
By the second half of the 19th century, respectable restaurants that catered to middle-class urbanites, including families, opened. Known as tables d’hote, these establishments offered a prix-fixe menu, serving five- to seven-course meals for a set price. In New York, tables d’hote were dominated by French, Italian, and Hungarian proprietors serving an Americanized version of these European cuisines; in San Francisco, most tables d’hote were French. Buffalo, Detroit, and Milwaukee had several German tables d’hote.
Restaurants became part and parcel of city life throughout the 19th century. Restaurant hierarchies emerged in every city with a significant restaurant sector—high-end restaurants catering to the elite, middle-class tables d’hotes, and working-class coffee and cake shops. Street vendors selling prepared foods complemented these public dining offerings. By the end of the 19th century, all but the poorest urban dwellers could—and did—participate in some form of public dining in the nation’s cities.
The Daily Diet of 19th-Century Urbanites
The changes in the urban food supply during the 19th century transformed the daily diet of city dwellers as well. By the end of the 19th century, urban Americans had access to a more diverse and cheaper diet than their parents and grandparents. At the same time, however, class differences significantly shaped access to foodstuffs and determined the quality of available food. As cities grew larger and more spatially stratified along class lines, those who lived in more expensive neighborhoods enjoyed access to food shops of higher quality with more expensive food. The reverse was true for the poor. As the standard of living rose for wealthy and middle-class Americans over the course of the 19th century, it declined for the working classes and low-income groups. Foodways were a central part of this standard of living.
Before refrigeration and reliable transportation, perishable foods were scant in the diet of most urbanites. Even the wealthiest were accustomed to eating spoiled or rancid food or forgoing fresh produce in the colder months. In the winter, only the wealthy had the space and disposable cash to be able to lay in provisions. A paradox characterized the urban food supply—those urbanites with money had a more diverse diet than their rural counterparts, whereas those without money had a less diverse diet than the rural poor because they had no space to grow their own food.
Thanks to abundant grazing land, meat was available even to poorer urban Americans, relative to their European counterparts. Indeed, access to meat on a regular basis was an important symbol of economic mobility for immigrant laborers. While pork was the most widely eaten meat in the United States in the 19th century and also the most common one found on rural tables, in the cities beef was the most popular fresh meat. Urban Americans also ate considerable chicken and pork (often smoked or salted), and smaller amounts of veal, sheep, and lamb.
Coastal city residents availed themselves of local fisheries, and locals ate fish and shellfish as the market allowed. Common offerings included shad, salmon, sturgeon, halibut, mackerel, cod, trout, lobster, clams, and oysters. New Orleanians partook of local delicacies such as shrimp and crawfish. Freshwater fish such as trout, pike, perch, bass, and catfish were most commonly found on the tables of denizens of urban midwesterners.
The 19th century was the era of the oyster. The bivalves were abundant in cities near the coast, which housed oyster cellars, oyster stands, and oyster markets. New York City was a particularly important oystering center, the national wholesale distributor for pickled and preserved oysters sent to ports domestic and foreign. A brisk trade existed within the city for fresh oysters as well. According to an 1890 estimate, New Yorkers consumed “over a million dozens of oysters every day.”10 While New York was the largest market and consumer of oysters, each city had an oyster culture, replete with oyster cellars offering “all you can eat” oysters shucked on the half shell as well as oysters prepared in a variety of ways—scalloped, baked, fricasseed, baked in pies, simmered in soups, and folded into stuffings.
As for fresh vegetables, they were not commonly consumed in the 1800s, though the diet expanded to incorporate them by the second half of the century. Tomatoes, peas, lettuces, celery, squashes, and other fresh vegetables became increasingly available in the markets and grew in popularity, along with more exotic varieties like artichokes, broccoli, and asparagus. Fruits also were more commonly eaten in stewed and dessert forms rather than fresh.
Throughout the 19th century, urban Americans had access to an abundant and diverse diet through the public markets and private retail food shops dotting their cities. Access, however, was increasingly shaped by geography and social class. As more middlemen stepped in and as the patrician market regulations of the early republic fell away, the cost of food rose. Moreover, the spatial stratification of cities according to class coincided with the proliferation of neighborhood retail food stores. Not surprisingly, the wealthiest neighborhoods were serviced by the highest-quality and most expensive food shops; poorer neighborhoods developed into what we might now call food deserts. Wealthy and middle-class urbanites enjoyed fresh meats, fish, cheeses, and a bounty of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Meanwhile, laborers subsisted on bread, potatoes, and molasses for sweetener (in place of sugar, which was expensive). Blood pudding (pig’s or cow’s blood mixed with ground pork and seasoning and stuffed into a casing), paired with butter crackers, was a common meal.
As urban food systems became increasingly complex, a host of food-service employment categories opened up. For much of the 19th century, these job sectors were dominated by African Americans and Irish immigrants. In the antebellum city, food preparation and service was one of the few occupational areas open to African Americans. The niching of African Americans in food service was rooted in slavery, where African Americans served as cooks, waiters, and gardeners both on large plantations and in urban townhouses. In both slave and free cities, African Americans dominated domestic service and waitering both in private homes and public spaces such as clubs, hotels, and restaurants, although Irish immigrant laborers subsumed and displaced them as they arrived in large numbers after 1830.
Catering and restaurant work offered a rare route to entrepreneurship and mobility to African Americans, for whom so many occupational areas were closed owing to racism. Black entrepreneurs like New York oysterman Thomas Downing and his son George Downing, who served as manager of the congressional dining room in Washington, DC; Philadelphia caterer Robert Bogle; and San Francisco boardinghouse keeper Mary Ellen Pleasant were but three examples of black individuals who parlayed their positions in food service into wealth and some measure of influence within the racist strictures of their time.
Food in the Immigrant City
As urban populations became predominantly foreign-born, immigrants made an indelible impact on the foodways of U.S. cities. Immigrants helped to change the tenor of daily urban life in many ways, including their contributions to an increasingly cosmopolitan food landscape. Restaurants, groceries, and other food-based ventures provided an entrepreneurial wedge for immigrants and contributed to their economic mobility as well as easing their settlement. These businesses also served as mitigating institutions for their patrons, offering reminders of home as well as a variety of services connecting them to each other and their countries of origin.
Food-related businesses provided entrepreneurial opportunities to many 19th-century immigrants. Ethnic groceries, operated by German, Chinese, Italian, and Mexican migrants and immigrants were important social institutions in immigrant neighborhoods throughout the United States. These shops sold foods imported from the “old country,” such as sharks’ fins from China and olive oil and pasta from Italy, and became informal gathering spaces for locals. Ethnic groceries also offered news from home and served as informal post offices, banks, and job offices.
Upon their respective arrivals, 19th-century immigrants dominated certain niches in terms of food businesses. Irish newcomers played an important role in shaping antebellum foodways primarily as servants in private homes and waiters in public hotels and restaurants. German immigrants controlled the baking and grocery trades, which they later ceded to the Italians who arrived in large numbers in the 1870s and 1880s. Most notably, Germans also invented the American beer industry, opening hundreds of breweries in cities where they settled, some of which—Pabst, Schlitz, Anheuser-Busch, Piel’s—grew into national brands. Meanwhile, in German delicatessens customers could purchase prepared dishes like meat pies and potato salad as well as smoked, pickled, and cured meats and vegetables. These establishments were concentrated in primarily German neighborhoods in cities with large German populations like New York, Milwaukee, and Chicago. In New York, the center of American Jewish immigration, kosher delicatessens appeared at the end of the 19th century.
Chinese immigrants dominated food service in San Francisco, running many of the city’s restaurants (which offered steak and potatoes over Chinese cuisine). Chinese San Franciscans also opened groceries from which they sold goods imported from China, such as sharks’ fins, cuttlefish, Chinese pickles, dried ducks, soybeans, bean sprouts, ginger, and various teas. Chinese grocers also sold prepared dishes—mainly to Chinatown locals—such as stir-fried vegetables and meats or fish. Like other borderlands, San Francisco enjoyed the influence of the Mexican, or “Californio,” population that had long lived in the area, operating ranches on the land. Enchiladas, tortillas, pozole, and rice and beans were found in fondas around the city in the 1850s, including Pascual Estrada’s Fonda Mejicana on Jackson Street and the Restaurante Mejicano on Dupont Street.
Other examples of immigrant-run restaurants included the cafés of Little Italy, the tortillerias of Little Mexico, and the tea parlors of Chinatown. At first, these “ethnic restaurants” did not attract a native-born clientele. Only the most adventurous native-born eaters sought meals in the exotic restaurants of the immigrant wards in the 19th century, and even these cosmopolitan diners were likely to view their escapades into the restaurants of Chinatown or Little Italy as a foray into the exotic. The chop suey craze was a product of the 20th century city, not the 19th century. As historian Andrew Haley explains, “‘Cosmopolitan’ described the diner, not the restaurateur, and embracing the label did not eliminate intolerance.”11 But by the end of the 19th century, some immigrant entrepreneurs branched out into the nonimmigrant wards of the nation’s cities, serving a hybrid cuisine that included some elements of their home country, adapted to the American palate.
The United States offered an abundant food landscape to late-19th-century immigrants in comparison with that available in their homelands. Italian immigrants serve as a prime example. This group, who immigrated primarily to cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia and in lesser numbers to Pittsburgh, Chicago, and San Francisco created an indelible cuisine in the United States that blended traditions of various regions in Italy. Foods that were previously accessible only to wealthy landowners in Italy, like pasta and olive oil, became staples of the Italian American pantry. Meanwhile, meat—a treat that Italian peasants might enjoy on an annual basis—was eaten weekly or even daily in the United States. Abundant family meals, once relegated to feast days, became weekly Sunday dinners in the homes of urban Italians and Italian Americans.
Italian American food is just one example of a fusion cuisine created in American cities out of various cultural traditions from within Italy. In other cases, fusions emerged from different ethnic communities living close to each other in urban neighborhoods, such as New York’s Lower East Side, where Eastern European Jewish immigrants embraced the Chinese food served in nearby Chinatown as “safe treyf.” While it might contain pork, shellfish, and other non-kosher ingredients, these foods were chopped so finely as to be indistinguishable and thus appealed particularly to Jews who were willing to thwart dietary rules out of willful ignorance.12
In terms of foodstuffs, urban immigrants introduced new kinds of foods to the American diet, some of which “crossed the boundaries of taste,” into the mainstream diet as historian Donna Gabbaccia has phrased it.13 German hamburger, sausages, pickles, and the famous lager beer; Italian sandwiches and spaghetti; Jewish egg creams; and Tex-Mex nachos and chili made their way into the diets of native-born Americans.
Discussion of the Literature
The subfield of food history is relatively new. Anthropologists, sociologists, folklorists, and culinary historians have long examined the topics of food and rituals of eating, but historians only recently began to take food seriously as a subject of study.14 With the emphasis on social and cultural history since the 1960s, historians have examined food and foodways as a lens onto social, cultural, economic, and political processes. Recent monographs examine food and urban development, urban public markets and food distribution, and individual food items such as meat.15 This literature does not focus exclusively on 19th-century urban foodways but also examines urban infrastructure, economics, social and cultural life, food distribution networks, food retailing, and the role of restaurants in the entertainment life of cities.16
Studies of 19th-century African American urban life include information on black entrepreneurship, which necessarily touches on food service.17 The literature on urban immigration also often discusses food and food-related businesses in the life of immigrant communities. Again, while many of these projects focus on the 20th-century city, some important works address 19th-century urban development.18
Nineteenth-century newspapers and periodicals such as Harper’s Weekly offer invaluable information about urban foodways, including market reports, grocers’ and housewares’ advertisements, and descriptions of restaurants. Magazines geared toward middle-class women included recipes and domestic advice that provide a sense of the range of possibilities in terms of urban foodways in the 19th century. Many of these newspapers and periodicals are digitized, including Harper’s Weekly and the New York Times, which dates back to 1851. The American Antiquarian Society’s Early American Newspaper Series, American Periodical Series, and Early American Imprints series (all digital collections available through subscription at research libraries) as well as Cornell’s Making of America digital collection of American periodicals are searchable databases with a trove of primary source materials that relate to 19th-century urban foodways.
Published travel literature, exposés of urban life (such as the “sunshine and shadows” genre) and—in the second half of the 19th century—travel guides to the city include discussions of restaurants, food markets, and other food-related businesses.
Archives at the New York Public Library (NYPL) and the New-York Historical Society (NYHS) include collections of menus from restaurants, hotels, and banquets. The NYHS holds the Bella C. Landauer Collection, a large collection of business papers and ephemera, including items referencing many food-related businesses and industries both local and national. Many of the NYPL’s menus are digitized and available at “What’s on the Menu? [menus.nypl.org].” Published diaries and letters also shed light on urban foodways in the 19th century, though in some cases a researcher needs to go to the source, especially for older edited collections whose editors viewed food references as trivial.
Important cookbooks collections—both published and manuscript—exist at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Fales Collection at New York University. Michigan State University has an excellent digital cookbook collection entitled “Feeding America.”
Anderson, Heather Arndt. Portland: A Food Biography. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014.Find this resource:
Baics, Gergely. “Is Access to Food a Public Good? Meat Provisioning in Early New York City, 1790–1820.” Journal of Urban History 39.4 (2013): 643–668.Find this resource:
Block, Daniel R.Chicago: A Food Biography. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015.Find this resource:
Carroll, Abigail. Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal. New York: Basic Books, 2013.Find this resource:
Diner, Hasia. Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.Find this resource:
Gabaccia, Donna. We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.Find this resource:
Haley, Andrew. Turning the Tables: Restaurants and the Rise of the American Middle Class, 1880–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.Find this resource:
Harris, Jessica B.High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America. New York: Bloomsbury, 2012.Find this resource:
Hauck-Lawson, Annie, and Jonathan Deutsch, eds. Gastropolis: Food and New York City. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.Find this resource:
Horowitz, Roger. Putting Meat on the American Table: Taste, Technology, Transformation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.Find this resource:
Horowitz, Roger, Jeffrey Pilcher, and Sidney Watts. “Meat for the Multitudes: Market Culture in Paris, New York City, and Mexico City over the Long Nineteenth Century.” American Historical Review 109.4 (2004): 1055–1083.Find this resource:
Kurlansky, Mark. The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006.Find this resource:
Lobel, Cindy R.Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014.Find this resource:
Peters, Erica J.San Francisco: A Food Biography. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.Find this resource:
Rees, Jonathan. Refrigeration Nation: A History of Ice, Appliances, and Enterprise in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.Find this resource:
Smith, Andrew F.New York: A Food Biography. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.Find this resource:
Tangires, Helen. Public Markets and Civic Culture in Nineteenth-Century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.Find this resource:
Wallach, Jennifer. How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015.Find this resource:
Ziegelman, Jane. 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One Tenement New York: Harper, 2011.Find this resource:
(1.) Helen Tangires, Public Markets and Civic Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003).
(2.) “The French Market at New Orleans,” All the Year Round: A Weekly Journal Conducted by Charles Dickens 13 (October 17, 1874–March 27, 1875): 261.
(3.) Mahlon Day, New York Street Cries in Rhyme (1825; repr., New York: Dover Publications, 1977); and John Bouvier, Cries of Philadelphia (Johnson and Warnerin, 1810).
(4.) Jessica B. Harris, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012), 127.
(5.) Erica J. Peters, San Francisco: A Food Biography (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013), 32.
(6.) Abram Dayton, Last Days of Knickerbocker Life in New York (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s, 1897), 145.
(7.) “The Eating Houses—How New Yorkers Sleep Up Town and Eat Down Town,” New-York Daily Times, November 6, 1852.
(8.) George Foster, New York in Slices, by an Experienced Carver (New York: Garrett, 1852), 67.
(9.) Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans, ed. Donald Smalley (New York: Vintage, 1949), 18–19.
(10.) “How the City Is Fed,” Christian Union 42.14 (October 2, 1890): 428.
(11.) Andrew Haley, Turning the Tables: Restaurants and the Rise of the American Middle Class, 1880–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 116.
(12.) Jennifer Wallach, How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), 83.
(13.) Donna R. Gabaccia, We Are What We Eat: Ethnic Food and the Making of Americans. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), 93–121.
(14.) Two notable exceptions to the dearth of academic food histories until recent years are Arthur M. Schlesinger, “A Dietary Interpretation of American History,” Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings 68 (1944–1947): 199–227; and Richard Osborn Cummings, The American and His Food: A History of Food Habits in the United States (1941; rprt., New York: Arno Press, 1970), which includes a chapter on urban foodways in the19th century. Popular food histories, written by journalists and culinary historians, are useful to academic historians seeking to gain a sense of the texture of foodways in the American city. These include Waverley Lewis Root and Richard de Rochemont, Eating in America: A History (New York: William Morrow, 1976); Richard Hooker, Food and Drink in America: A History (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1981); P. G. Kittler and K. Sucher, Food and Culture in America (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1989); Michael and Ariane Batterberry, On the Town in New York from 1776 to the Present (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1973), revised and republished in 1999 as On the Town in New York: The Landmark History of Eating, Drinking, and Entertainments from the American Revolution to the Food Revolution; John Mariani, America Eats Out: An Illustrated History of Restaurants, Taverns, Coffee Shops, Speakeasies, and Other Establishments That Have Fed Us for 350 Years (New York: William Morrow, 1991); William Grimes, Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York (New York: North Point Press, 2010); and Mark Kurlansky, The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell (New York: Ballantine Books, 2006). Rowman and Littlefield is publishing a series called “Big City Food Biographies,” aimed at a popular audience. These works offer narrative histories of foodways in American cities. Recent titles include Elizabeth M. Williams, New Orleans: A Food Biography (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012); Andrew F. Smith, New York: A Food Biography (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013); Erica J. Peters, San Francisco: A Food Biography (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013); Heather Arndt Anderson, Portland: A Food Biography (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); and Daniel R. Block, Chicago: A Food Biography (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015). Scholars outside of history, including anthropologists, geographers, sociologists and folklorists, have contributed to our understanding of foodways in general, and in some cases these works touch on the 19th-century city. Geographer Richard Pillsbury, for example, offered a relatively early history of restaurants, From Boarding House to Bistro: The American Restaurant Then and Now (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990). A valuable collection that focuses on New York City is Annie Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch, eds., Gastropolis: Food and New York City (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010).
(15.) Among the published works that focus specifically on 19th-century urban food history are Cindy R. Lobel, Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014); Helen Tangires, Public Markets and Civic Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Marc Linder and Lawrence S. Zacharias, Of Cabbages and Kings County: Agriculture and the Formation of Modern Brooklyn (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999); and Erica J. Peters, “A Path to Acceptance: Promoting Chinese Restaurants in San Francisco, 1849–1919,” Southern California Quarterly 97.1 (2015): 5–28. Recent surveys of U.S. food history that include some sections and chapters on 19th-century urban foodways include Elaine McIntosh, American Food Habits in Historical Perspective (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995); Susan Williams, Food in the United States, 1830–1890 (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2006); Megan J. Elias, Food in the United States, 1890–1945 (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2009); and Jennifer Jensen Wallach, How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012). Meanwhile, an important history of 19th-century foodways that includes discussions of urban patterns is Andrew Haley, Turning the Tables: Restaurants and the Rise of the American Middle Class, 1880–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011). For histories of meat provisioning, see Roger Horowitz, Putting Meat on the American Table: Taste, Technology, Transformation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); Roger Horowitz, Jeffrey Pilcher, and Sidney Watts, “Meat for the Multitudes: Market Culture in Paris, New York City, and Mexico City over the Long Nineteenth Century,” American Historical Review 109.4 (2004): 1055–1083; Paula Young Lee, ed., Meat, Modernity and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2008); and Gergely Baics, “Is Access to Food a Public Good? Meat Provisioning in Early New York City, 1790–1820,” Journal of Urban History 39.4 (2013): 643–668.
(16.) Monographs on urban nightlife and consumer culture include some information on restaurants and other venues of public dining. See, for example, Timothy Gilfoyle, City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790–1920 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992); Patricia Cline Cohen, The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York (New York: Vintage, 1998); Amy Gilman Srebnick, The Mysterious Death of Mary Rogers: Sex and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Tyler Anbinder, Five Points: The 19th-Century Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum (New York: Free Press, 2001); David Nasaw, Going Out: The Rise and Fall of Public Amusements (New York: Basic Books, 1993); Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday. (New York: Vintage, 1996); and Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986). Studies of urban development and infrastructure include important information on food distribution networks in the 19th-century city. Two of the most notable are Edward Spann, The New Metropolis: New York City, 1840–1857 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981); and William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991). Likewise, studies of urban public culture and consumer culture address issues such as the role of food-related consumer goods in middle-class formation and the development of “safe” spaces for middle-class women in public. See, for example, Stuart Blumin, The Emergence of the Middle Class: Social Experience in the American City, 1760–1900 (Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Mary Ryan, Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825–1880 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990); and Mona Domosh, “Those ‘Gorgeous Incongruities’: Polite Politics and Public Space on the Streets of 19th-Century New York,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 88.2 (1998): 209–226. Histories of the urban working class include discussions of food-related artisans and the role of food in working-class entertainments. See, for example, Howard Rock, Artisans of the New Republic: The Tradesmen of New York City in the Age of Jefferson (New York: New York University Press, 1979); Richard B. Stott, Workers in the Metropolis: Class, Ethnicity, and Youth in Antebellum New York (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1990); Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984); and Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789–1860 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986). On domestic servants and food, see Faye E. Dudden, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth-Century America (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1983). On waiters’ strikes, see Margaret Garb, “The Great Chicago Waiters’ Strike: Producing Urban Space, Organizing Labor, Challenging Racial Divides in 1890s Chicago,” Journal of Urban History 40.6 (2014): 1079–1098. On hotels and boardinghouses, including discussion of food habits in these spaces, see Andrew Sandoval-Strausz, Hotel: An American History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008); and Wendy Gamber, The Boardinghouse in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007). On urban tourism, see Catherine Cocks, Doing the Town: The Rise of Urban Tourism in the United States, 1850–1915 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).
(17.) See, for example, Leonard P. Curry, The Free Black in Urban America 1800–1850 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1981); Leslie Harris, In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); John H. Hewitt, “Mr. Downing and His Oyster House: The Life and Good Works of an African-American Entrepreneur,” New York History 74 (1993): 229–252; and Graham Hodges, Root & Branch: African Americans in New York & East Jersey, 1613–1863 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999). See also Psyche Forson-Williams, Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food and Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).
(18.) On immigrant foodways, see Donna Gabbaccia, We Are What We Eat: Food and the Making of Americans (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Hasia Diner, Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003). See also Robert Ernst, Immigrant Life in New York City, 1825–1863 (1949; rprt., Port Washington, NY: Ira J. Friedman 1965); Stanley Nadel, Little Germany: Ethnicity, Religion, and Class in New York City, 1845–1860 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990); Jane Ziegelman, 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One Tenement (New York: Harper, 2011); and Andrew Heinze, Adapting to Abundance: Jewish Immigrants, Mass Consumption, and the Search for American Identity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990).