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Pan-American Exposition of 1901

The Restaurants

Diners at Alt Nürnberg

Besides the seven large restaurants supplied by the Main kitchen of the Bailey Catering Company there were numerous smaller and specialized eateries preparing and serving food for expositon visitors and workers. The more expensive establishments were located in such areas as the Pergolas and the Electric tower. Ethnic foods could be found throughout the Midway, and even the Indian Congress Restaurant boasted a "First class meal and all kinds of refreshments." Exposition visitors were not limited to dining on the grounds proper as many Buffalo establishments promoted and advertized their restaurants as viable alternatives to the often overpriced meals found on the Pan-American grounds. This section exhibits some of the restaurants and food choices available to Exposition-goers. In addition, the Menus and Advertisements section allows viewers to compare food prices at the exposition to the annual income/expenditures of families of the period.

Pabst on the Midway

This crude poem appeared in the Journal of American Industries 3, no. 9 (February 1901) and was followed by a description of the Pabst concession. Graced with colored lights and 150 x 10, the restaurant cost over $30,000 to build and employed upwards of 100 people. Mueller and his family were veterans of other fairs and he was assisted at Buffalo by his three sons.

"Gesundheit!"Pabst on the Midway -- Frtiz Mueller the Host Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

When the sad tourist is tired out with sights,
When he is thirsty and needs rest, by rights
There's Pabst on the Midway, with Fritz in command;
Step over and see him and get the glad hand!
Eat, drink, and be merry. Forget every care.
Have a good time as long as you're there!

The big exposition will tire out the best
And all will need a place they can sit down and rest
And sip a good beverage such as Pabst makes
And Mueller dispenses. Such a place takes!
Yes, Pabst on the Midway is just the right thing.
Here say me "Gesundheit." Pabst's praises we'll sing.

pabst menu

Reproduction of the Menu of the Pabst Restaurant. Source: Menu of the Pabst Restaurant, located on the Midway of the Pan-American Exposition. Courtesy of Sue Eck.

See also, Uncle Hank's experience at the Pabst Restaurant.

Some Advice on How to Get the Most From An Exposition Meal

The Nebraska Sod House

The Nebraska Sod House. Photo credit: C. D. Arnold Source: C. D. Arnold. The Pan-American Exposition, Illustrated. Buffalo, N.Y.: C. D. Arnold, 1901, p. 69.

In the Everybody's Magazine special Pan-American issue, Mary Bronson Hartt offered the following advice to the thrifty:

"The problem of dinner at the Pan-American is one of grave importance. If you are careless of expense it is easy to be happy; you dine at Alt Nürnberg, or up in the Tower, or at the American Inn. But if you want your money for something more lasting than viands the case is complicated.

There are two fifty-cent dinners offered on the grounds: one at the restaurant beside the Philippine Village, the other in the Dairy Building. There is even a thirty-five-cent dinner to be had beside the East Amherst gate. For this I cannot vouch. In general the low-priced places furnish as good service and as desirable a menu as would be expected with Pan-American prices prevailing at the markets.

The Dairy Building Dairy Building. Photo credit: n/a. Source: The Latest and Best Views of the Pan-American Exposition. Buffalo, N.Y.: Robert Allan Reid, 1901. Courtesy of the University Archives--University at Buffalo.

The Nebraska Sod House used to be an exception. It furnished, and still furnishes for that matter, a meal of fricasseed chicken, coffee, and bread and butter for thirty cents. And it was good. But unfortunately everybody knows about the Sod House now, and unless you go at eleven o'clock in the morning it is always full and closed. The Rice Kitchen is another reasonable place, but too popular for comfort.

There is a moderate-priced restaurant with entrance from the street in Fair Japan. " Streets of Mexico" serves both native tamales and chili con carne and American food well cooked, at prices below that of the dearest places. Sandwiches and such unstaying trifles can be had at lunch counters everywhere, but they are not cheaper than more substantial dishes -- that is, if you buy enough to sustain life.

Alt Nürnberg The Restaurant at Alt Nürnberg. Photo credit: C. D. Arnold. Source: C. D. Arnold. The Pan-American Exposition, Illustrated. Buffalo, N.Y.: C. D. Arnold, 1901, p. 104.

Habitues of the Exposition get their most substantial meal at noon at one of the cheaper places, and sup lightly at Alt Nürnberg to the music of the fine band or up on the colonnade of the Electric Tower with the whole sunlit spectacle spread out before them."

Mary Bronson Hartt, "How to See the Pan-American Exposition," Everybody's Magazine, v. 5, no. 26 (October 1901): 488-491.
Note: Images did not appear in the original Hartt article and have been compiled from various sources.

Main Kitchen of Bailey Catering Company, Enormous In Every Way

The Exposition's main kitchen was located in the northwest corner of the Pan-American grounds, near the Midway. In the "Maps to the Essentials" section, see Major Restaurants on the Exposition Grounds to find the location of the Main Kitchen (section A-3) in relation to the larger dining facilities. A more detailed map of the Softdrink Vendors, Restaurants and Toilets Located on the Exposition Grounds shows many of the smaller restaurants and refreshment stands.

The main kitchen's design is described in this Buffalo Courier article of 7 March 1900:

"Construction work was begun this morning at the Pan-American grounds on the immense kitchen upon which will devolve the task of preparing food for the millions of people who will visit the Exposition next summer.

The plan is to have the Kitchen apart from the restaurants which it will purvey for, in order that the odors of the flower beds may have a chance against the redolent tornadoes of cooking smells that are bound to escape form the pie-foundry that is to be built with a capacity of 50,000 pies of these pastries every day, and which will enthrone Buffalo for one season at least, as Queen of the Pie Belt. It is deemed wise, too, to have the roaring furnaces that will furnish power in the manufacture of eatables apart from the Exposition buildings.

Entrance to Dreamland

For these reasons the Kitchen, the size of which entitles it to be pronounced with a capital initial, is being built in the north side of the grounds near the power house. . . When the north wind blows the aroma of the baking Boston beans will be wafted through the Beautiful Orient and Dreamland. At other times they will regale firemen in the firehouse.

The Kitchen will be 200 hundred feet long, 150 deep and two stories high. It will be devoted exclusively to cooking with the exception of rooms in the second story, which will be set apart for the chef and scullions.

Although the Kitchen is not designed as an exhibit, it will be open on all three sides for inspection. To this end the lower story will consist largely of windows, through which visitors may watch the odorous transformation of strange substances into mince pie.

It has not been decided yet how to get over the difficulty of serving hot meals in the restaurants that top the kitchen when the institution will be nearly a half mile away. The problem is one that involves rapid transit. A system of overhead trolley lines similar in principle to that used for transactions of cash in department stores has been considered seriously. The plan provides for large baskets mounted upon trolley wheels. One strong objection is the birds of the air, who might levy toll upon the baskets en route. The gravity of the danger will be realized when it is stated that the feathered population of the grounds will be reinforced next summer with 500 more pigeons direct from Venice."

Portions of an Enquirer article of 28 March 1900 add some details:

" … The kitchen is a long, two-story affair lying behind large square buildings which will screen it from ordinary sight. Visitors will be welcome, however, large giant windows and convenient platforms being provided of a view of operations within. It's size is 250 x 75 feet.

On the west end is a large bakery, with two immense ovens, capable of baking 1,000 loaves of bread every hour. These ovens rotate and have swinging shelves like the cars on the Ferris wheel. Cake, crackers, or cookies may be baked instead of bread. North of the bakery is a laundry for table linen, and east of that an ice cream room. Next is a store room and then a wine room, which is supplemented across the walk by a deep recess, fitted with a complete refrigerating plant for beer and wine. On the south side are a butcher shop, a room for vegetables and fish, one for butter and eggs, one for grocer's supplies, a cold storage box and an immense receiving space, 50 x 75 for stores and supplies.

Grand View from Gates

the Electric Tower
The Electric Tower. Artist: Harry Fenn. Source: Reproduced in Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo May 1 to November 1, 1901. Its purpose and its plan. With Illustrations. Buffalo, N.Y. : The Courier Company, 1901.

In addition, there are eight lunch rooms in various convenient places. The most popular will probably be those in the Pergolas, each seating 600 persons. These will be open with a view to the Esplanade to the north and to the south over the triumphal bridge to the State buildings. Another delightful dinning room will be in the Temple of Music. … There will be sandwiches, ice cream, and cake and similar light refreshments.

The company is counting on an average of 50,000 meals a day from the start. They can take care of 100,000 in a pinch. There are to be 6,000 chairs. The big rush, however, will not come until after the Fourth of July.

Sleeping Room for Employees

Upstairs are the offices for officials, a large dining room for employees, of which there will be about 1,000 … the paymaster's room and twenty-eight sleeping rooms for officials and cooks.

The kitchen will supply the seven large restaurants. There are four in the main buildings, two on the stadium side and two on the opposite side, each capable of seating 750 persons. One in the northwest corner will accommodate 700 and one in the Dairy building 250. The most exclusive, both in price and quality, as well as in location, will be the electric tower, overlooking the great fountain and the main feature of the Expo. The prices here will be about those charged at first class cafes. "

Note: Images did not appear in the original Courier or Enquirer articles.

Waiters and Waitresses Wanted!

The restaurants on the grounds of the Exposition, and in Buffalo, presented good employment opportunities for waiters and waitresses. From as far away as Chicago they came. Some came so early they arrived before employment was available.

The Enquirer of 1 March 1901 described this problem:

"It is estimated that something like 300 bartenders and waiters are in Buffalo unable to find work. They have come here in an anticipation of the Pan-American Exposition.

Throughout the country many are making their way toward the city -- they will arrive in time to discover what a cold place a beautiful city with a glorious exposition can be just in the heyday of its marvelous summer until the visitor has the wherewithal to satisfy the lunch counters or an acquaintance with the Director-General.

Local proprietors in seeking help are giving preference to home men. They will continue to do so, and though there will be a demand for extra labor after May 1st, the material to satisfy it will be way in excess of demand.

Buffalo unions have issued warnings to the waiters and bartenders stating that they will make a big mistake by getting here before May or June, and that if they continue to arrive in the next three months, as they have of late, hundreds of them will be walking the streets hungry and homeless."

And there was some effort to organize cooks and waiters, as reported in the Enquirer of 12 March 1901:

"The organization, it is said, contemplates demanding $100 a month as a minimum for all good cooks or persons employed as head cooks. The minimum salary for waiters is said to be fixed at $2 a day."

The first menu (click on the image) is that of the American Inn, one of the hotels located in the immediate vicinity of the Exposition grounds. The second is a menu of the luncheon held for President William McKinley during his visit to the Pan-American. This luncheon was held in the New York State Building on September 5, 1901, the day before the president was shot in the Temple of Music.

Thumnail image - American Inn menu Reproduction of the Menu of the American Inn. Source: From a collection of Pan-American Exposition menus. Digitized from a photocopy.. Courtesy of the Buffalo History Museum.

Cover page | page 1 | page 2
Thumbnail image - McKinley luncheon Reproduction of the Menu of a Luncheon Held for President McKinley on September 5, 1901 - [page 1]. Source: From a collection of Pan-American Exposition menus. Digitized from a photocopy. Courtesy of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

page 1 | page 2

Below is a menu from the Pabst Restaurant located on the Midway. At right are advertisments from the September 6, 1901 Buffalo Courier. [Click on these images to see larger versions.]

To gain a better perspective of the "cost" of the Exposition food relative to annual income/expenditures of the "typical" working and middle class visitor, see 1902-1903 Family Profiles.

Thumbnail image - Pabst Restaurant Menu
Thumbnail Image - Wellington Cafe Ad in the Buffalo Courier Advertisement for the Wellington Cafe. Source: The Buffalo Courier, September 6, 1901, p. 4, col. 7. Courtesy of B. Battleson.
Thumbnail Image - Hotel Ads in the Buffalo Courier Advertisements for Buffalo Hotels. Source: The Buffalo Courier, September 6, 1901, p. 4, cols. 5-6. Courtesy of B. Battleson.

Indian Congress restaurant Ad

This adverstisement appeared in the Historical Biography and Libretto of the Indian Congress, compiled by Frederick T. Cummins, [n.p., 1901.]