Transportation Lodging Fees Food Souvenirs Other 1901 Costs
Food on the Exposition Grounds Beverages on the Exposition Grounds Eating in the City What the Rich Ate
A hungry person was rarely more than a few steps from something to eat on the Exposition grounds. By the end of July, Sanitary Inspector Dr. Nelson W. Wilson reported that there were 36 restaurants, 15 kitchens in concessions and villages, and 57 soft drink stands on the grounds.
The Rice Association of America sponsored a popular Louisiana Rice Kitchen near the state and foreign buildings. The Nebraska Sod House was also a money-maker, despite being repeatedly written up and even closed down by the Pan-American Sanitary Office for unsanitary conditions. Individual concessionaires included Firmin Michel's Roast Beef Sandwiches, the Wellington, the American Inn. Mrs. McCready's Restaurant was touted in a guide book thus: "Here the visitor may procure foods of any description to satisfy 'the inner man.' A first-class restaurant in every particular and assured of a high-class patronage."
These were "sit-down" restaurants, where you could get table service. How much did it cost a foot-sore person who needed to sit down (in the shade, preferably) and didn't mind paying for the privilege? The charges varied widely, but most agree that the two most expensive places to eat on the ground were the Electric Tower restaurant (the higher of the two restaurants charged the higher prices) and Alt Nurnberg, a Buffalo concession that brought in famed New York restauranteur August Luchow (of Luchow's) to manage the restaurant. A frankfurter at Alt Nurnberg cost $.45 ($9.00 in today's money); whether a bun was included is not known! A cup of coffee at one of the Bailey Catering Concession restaurants cost $.10 ($2.00); if one had any money left over from the coffee, some pie baked in the Exposition Kitchen on the grounds might be a fine accompaniment.
These tidbits and other rumors quickly gave rise to the notion that one could not get anything reasonably priced to eat on the Exposition grounds. That was not necessarily correct overall, as will be seen in the next section, but it must be understood that all concessions at the Exposition were licensed and paid 25% of their profits to the Exposition Company.
Bringing Your Own
The "box lunch" was a universal favorite method for Exposition visitors to bring their own lunch and thereby guarantee some economy and degree of sanitation to their gustatory experiences. The first mention of the box lunch appears in the News on May 21, the day after the enormous attendance of Dedication Day. Amid the "ocean of litter" left behind were a several thousand old shoe boxes that had carried lunches for the visitors and were discarded.
Box lunches were also a mainstay of the frugal travelers to the Exposition by train. From Ohio and points west and south rail travelers entered the Exposition and immediately found their way to their state's building on the grounds. There they deposited their box lunches for later consumption. There is no information on what kinds of food were packed for what would have been a 12-24 hour period without refrigeration.
And visitors could purchase a box lunch at a
number of city restaurants which they could then carry to the grounds.