Buying Cigarettes
I came - I saw - I bought

Remember When Restaurants Had Cigarettes On The Menu?

Cigarettes, they're what's for dinner? Yup, long before Nanny Bloomberg came and kicked New York City's smokers to the curb, the scent of burnt tobacco used to permeate the city-restaurants used to even sell smokes as an after dinner treat!

For almost a year now the New York Public Library has been in the process of digitizing its menus (with the help of YOU) and one of the benefits of all that work is you can now search for terms found in many of the menus. As of this morning, cigarettes appear on 402 menus in the collection, first appearing in an 1884 menu and making their last appearance on a 1987 menu (not all of those are restaurant menus though-menus from cruise ships, trains and formal events are in the mix too). And considering the size of the archive, that is just the beginning.

Oh, to go to the Waldorf Astoria and-after a dinner of "clear green turtle with sack and golden cheese straws" followed by filet mignon-order a smoke or two with your liquors. Maybe you'd prefer a 1899 dinner with the Brooklyn Bicycle Club, where Egyptian cigarettes were served with the sorbet course (Punch Romain, Bon Ton don't you know). And who could turn down the annual American Medical Editors' Association dinner of 1908 when cigars and cigarettes were proudly offered with the dessert options.

Eventually smoking in the city's restaurants tapered off, first being relegated to smoking sections and then being done away with altogether. Ah well. What we miss the most about the later days of restaurant smoking wasn't actually the smoking itself-it was the funky cigarette dispensers that most diners used to keep by their front doors. Those things were great.

Published: Monday, February 27, 2012

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