Date: Thu, 27 Nov 1997 01:03:12 -0500
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
The authors of AMERICA IN SO MANY WORDS made a real flubber when they
chose "goo" for 1902. I have "goo-goo" and "gooey" from the 19th century.
The word-of-the-year should have been "automatic." An automatic gun was
advertised in the Sears catalog for that year. In New York City, we had the
birth of the automatic restaurant.
OED has "automat" from a Scientific American photograph, 18 July 1903.
This excellent, long antedate comes from the Long Branch Record (NJ), 9
January 1903, pg. 12, col. 4:
AN AUTOMATIC RESTAURANT
New York Has an Electric Novelty In Feeding Line.
The electric restaurant is Broadway's latest. It came recently with a
dozen more to follow speedily, and when it opened for business at noon it
created such a diversion among Christmas shoppers as seriously to threaten
the Christmas trade.
It is a waiterless restaurant, where every man turns on the electricity
and gets what he wants, whether it be a course dinner, a highball, or an
The place is on Broadway, New York, and is called the Automat. It
occupies an entire floor and is fitted up with an elaborate mechanical
service, made in Germany, at a cost of $75,000. It is the first restaurant
of the kind to be set up in New York and the second in this country
(SECOND??-ed.), and the novelty caught Broadway at once.
Three minutes after the restaurant opened at noon it was filled.
Fashionable shoppers from up town, jostled business men and strangers
elbowed each other in an effort to test the strange mechanism.
Tall cabinets of marble and cut glass hid both walls. Through the glass
were to be seen little rows of elevators with slots and levers for operating
them. On one side was a bar where any drink could be had by dropping the
price in a slot, and surrounding it were machines where anything from a
sandwich to a pie could be bought. Ten cents in the slot brought up a plate
of smoking hot soup, any kind, in five seconds, and a quarter in the slot
brought out a plate of roast Chistmas turkey as quick as one could reach for
it. (Turkey costs more than a quarter now in NYC--ed.)
The meals came silently up from the kitchen in the basement, impelled by
electricity. They came smoking hot (I smell a lawsuit here--ed.) or ice
cold, just as the customer wanted, and never a waiter in sight. Electric
bills of fare guided the customer.
The elevators were fitted with countless little shelves. Hot coffee,
chocolate and cocoa were automatically served from tanks. A nickel in the
slot opened the slot just long enough for a cupfull of the steaming fluid to
run out. All kinds of mixed drinks, from Manhattans to a special "automat
cocktail," could be obtained. Vermont cider side by side with foreign wines
and imported beers came streaming out in response to the coin dropped in the