HORN & HARDART AUTOMAT
For many people "putting a nickel in the slot" reminds them not of slot machines but of the Horn & Hardart Automat, a waiterless restaurant where you could get a whole meal from coin operated dispensers.
The first Horn & Hardart Automat opened in 1902 and flourished in the 1930's in Philadelphia and New York City. Unfortunately, the company went out of business in the 1960's.
The Automat was famous for its nickel cups of coffee dispensed from dolphin-head spigots and hundreds of little coin operated windows that dispensed food. Even though it operated in only two cities, it was one of the nation's largest restaurant businesses.
If you want to see what the original 1902 Automat looked like, you can visit the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. You can also travel to the Netherlands, where many fast food outlets use automats to supplement their counter sales.
So, the next time you get a cup of coffee or sandwich from a vending machine, remember that it was the Horn & Hardart Automat that made it fashionable to get your meal from a coin-operated dispenser.
Copyright: 2009 Ken Durham, GameRoomAntiques
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