“The Lunch Hour” at the New York Public Library
While ambling along the streets of Manhattan, I ended up in front of the New York Public Library and couldn’t resist going inside.
Once there, I stumbled across a quaint little exhibition entitled Lunch Hour NYC.
This is how the good people at NYPL describe their curatorial focus:
“The clamor and chaos of lunch hour in New York has been a defining feature of the city for some 150 years. Visitors, newly arrived immigrants, and even longtime New Yorkers are struck by the crowds, the rush, and the dizzying range of foods on offer. Of the three meals that mark the American day, lunch is the one that acquired its modern identity here on the streets of New York. […]
Lunch Hour NYC looks back at more than a century of New York lunches, when the city’s early power brokers invented what was yet to be called power lunch, local charities established a 3-cent school lunch, and visitors with guidebooks thronged Times Square to eat lunch at the Automat. Drawing on materials from throughout the Library, the exhibition explores the ways in which New York City—work-obsessed, time-obsessed, and in love with ingenious new ways to make money—reinvented lunch in its own image.”
There’s really everything you could want in there, from little manuscripts documenting street-vendor cries, to real-life original seafood vendor carts. There is a wall dedicated to the history of the peanut butter sandwhich, too, but my favourite was definitely the automat.
In addition to the real thing, this section also includes projections of some snippets of 30s and 40s Hollywood movies which featured these contraptions – such as the glamorous Thirty Day Princess and That Touch of Mink. Also present was an automat coffee-spout which burst into a little jingly tune (“let’s have a cup of coffee… tra la la” or something of the sort) as soon as you pressed the button. Simply marvellous!
Also noteworthy are charming artifacts such as this letter from an automat-fan par excellence:
The exhibition is on until 17 February 2013, in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, and it is free of charge.