From Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age

“…when Americans travel, a near total dependence on restaurants prevails. Indeed, one of the highest pleasures of tourist travel is that of eating out. The restaurant looms as an important way to experience new localities, even, paradoxically, when the tourist relies on chain restaurants that are very much alike from one locale to another.”


Notes from Heather and Sara’s Meeting with Pat Malone about FOTM 12/16/09


  • Fred Harvey Company – worked with the railroad to provide food before food was served on board
  • Dream Trains – book about Native American railroad tourism
  • American tourism starts with the railroad around 1820 due to more comfortable travel
  • Food was available at the rail stops, but the train didn’t stop for long; Then food became available on board (Pullman Cars); Pullman cars were independently operated, Pullman Porters contributed to the rise of the black middle class

Ships/ Boats

  • Packet boats traveled along canals, canal locks became comfort stations and the lock tender was often a tavern keeper
  • Stagecoach moved west as canals expanded in the east
  • Steamboats drove the rise of the luxury hotel because accommodations at sea were such much grander than on land


  • Cars are connected with the stagecoach
  • Salesmen:
    • Many travelers were salesmen through the 1930s and 40s
    • Salesmen stayed at hotels which didn’t appeal to tourists, so they started using camps
  • Picnicking: people became bringing sophisticated cooking equipment with them on the road
  • Early Tourist Form: Tea Garden
  • Roadside Restaurants:
    • Mom & Pop loses out to franchises
    • Shift from variation to standardized food, begins with standardized drinks (drive-in/ A & W root beer)
    • Bob’s Big Boy
    • White Castle, Hot Dogs by the Bag
  • Roadside Architecture representative of food – blend of the symbolic and theoretical
    • Igloo suggests cold food
    • Restaurant in shape of food, hot dog; could represent ethnic association (i.e. tamale)
    • Donuts
    • Tail of the Pup in LA, hot dogs
  • Truck Driver Market
    • Grapes of Wrath film includes truck stop scene
    • Crime movies with roadside restaurants
  • Race & Class – African American Green Books; Diners became “classless”
  • Social Dimension: Going for a drive with the family; driving as an activity, food became an excuse to go for a ride (go for donuts, ice cream, etc.)
  • Dairy-related: milk, ice cream
  • Sources:
    • Open Road by Phil Patton
    • Googie by Alan Hess, about California coffee shops
    • The Strip
    • California Crazy by Jim Heimann
    • Americans on the Road: From Autocamp to Motel, 1910-1945 by Warren James Belasco
    • Orange Roof, Golden Arches by Langdon
    • Primary Source: Emily Post’s By Motor to Golden Gate, contains a lot about hotels and food
    • Matt Roth (Pat’s former student), Southern California Auto Association
    • Photorealism – Roy Striker/ Photo Documentation
    • Film: Postman Rings Twice features roadside restaurant
  • Exhibits that do it well:
    • Henry Ford Museum, Automobile in American Life by Matt Roth
    • Petersen Automobile Museum, LA County Museums


  • Primary Sources: Maps/ Guidebooks/ Green Books (African American guide to stops) – Ask Steve Lubar about these

      programming: sugarush cupcake truck

      a new mobile cupcake truck coming soon to providence! the above recipe was featured in the brochure for the eighth annual Craftland show this winter. as a new company, these guys might be especially interested in participating in our showcase of local food trucks. i’ll be contacting them soon, and in the meantime, i might need to bake some of these cupcakes. yum.

      Photo of stagecoach

      Hi all,

         I found this photo of a mail coach in Stoddard, New Hampshire, which is where the taproom comes from.  Enjoy!  (It came from the website below)     –Meghan

      inspiration: maira kalman post

      a little food on the move inspiration from the ever-clever maira kalman.

      i’d love to hear what you guys think about her latest project.



      graphics from here.

      Flyer: Courtesy of Prof. Lubar

      *Vermont Humanities Council
      October 2009 EVENTS

      *Vermont* Humanities Council *11 Loomis Street* *Montpelier*,
      Vermont *802.262.2626* **
      ** * * * * ** * * **

      *FOOD** for Thought
      *VHC’s Annual Fall Conference
      <> ,
      November 13 and 14,
      The Essex, Essex, Vermont

      *Food is our first human need. *We experience food daily, to a
      greater or unfortunately lesser degree. But often we do so with
      little thought, even unconsciously. The conference will examine food
      from the perspective of the humanities—including literary, artistic,
      religious, anthropological, ethical, social, and cultural aspects of
      food, as well as food and the future. Join noted authors, cooks,
      scholars, and other experts in an examination of the ways that food
      and eating shape us as individuals, as a culture, and as a society.
      */Sessions are filling up quickly, so register today! /*

      *Featuring *

      • *A conversation with Darra Goldstein, *editor in chief of
      /Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture/, *Judith Jones*,
      Knopf’s famed senior editor, and *Marialisa Calta*, national food

      • *The Future of Food in a Hungry World* with Dr. Nils Daulaire,
      former CEO of the Global Health Council

      * *From Deer Camp to CSA: Food and its Relationship to the
      Landscape* with Amy Trubek, UVM assistant professor

      *Friday afternoon workshops — *The Five Tastes; Terroir: The Role
      of Place in Taste; An Afternoon with Your new Tuscan Friends:
      Cantucci e Vin Santo; Wine and Cheese: A Paired Event; and Chanoyu:
      the Japanese Tea Ceremony

      *Breakout sessions — *food imagery in New Testament art; food and
      film; anthropology and food; the cookbook as a writing genre; bread,
      the staff of life; food and its relationship to landscape; the
      artisan cheese renaissance; a look at the future of food production
      in Vermont from a global perspective.

      *Conference fee*– The $99 ($69 student) fee includes Friday
      evening’s and Saturday’s programs, continental breakfast, buffet
      lunch, and snacks. Friday afternoon’s optional activities and the
      conference texts (not required), /Hungry Planet: What the World
      Eats/ by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, and /Catching Fire: How
      Cooking Made Us Human /by Richard Wrangham, carry additional fees.
      Students and teachers are encouraged to attend; certification
      letters are available. An on-site bookstore will be open during the
      day. Space is limited; registration is first-come, first-served.

      *Registration and payment deadline is October 23;* after the
      deadline, registrations will be accepted as space is available.
      Cancellations: refund less $25 fee until October 23; no refund after
      October 23. See **
      <../../../Publications/Enews/> to learn more.
      Or call 802.262.2626 x 304 or e-mail **
      <> .

      *Learn more* <>

      *Fall conference brochure*
      – pdf

      The conference is presented with the generous support of *C&S
      Wholesale Grocers* <> and the participation of
      *King Arthur Flour* <> .

      Link: Courtesy of Prof. Lubar: