The Waitress Has An Admirer – New York City (circa 1909)

Miss Addie Hamilton was working at Smith & McNells – the hotel restaurant that pioneered 24-hour, high-volume, dining since the mid-19th century.

Smith & McNells was located near the Washington Market, in the lower west side of Manhattan – the largest wholesale food exchange in the United States until the 1950’s.

Because produce delivery was a late-night and early-morning activity, Smith & McNells operated an efficient, highly-professional, low-cost dining operation around the clock.

Waiters and waitresses who succeeded in the rapid, high-quality operation at Smith & McNells could be hired anywhere in the restaurant industry.

(Fred Harvey, who founded the national chain of Harvey Houses that revolutionized dining for railroad travelers in the west, was trained at Smith & McNells when he arrived as a poor immigrant in the 1850’s.)

Unfortunately, while there are many historical records of Smith & McNells, there is no data base of the small army of restaurant workers who made the business successful.

We have to imagine that Miss Addie, by her efficient and graceful service, had inspired the admiration of an anonymous diner.

Addie received a postcard, brilliantly colored and gilded, at her place of employment.

The scene in the postcard illustration is of an astonished maiden being greeted or serenaded by a richly-dressed suitor or minstrel.

The admirer did not sign the postcard, which was mailed from New York City.

Is the sender a late-working office manager, a burly dock worker, a worker on the railroad, or the driver of a delivery wagon?  Could it be the scion of a rich industrialist who ended a long night of carousing at the eatery?

In any event, one hopes that Addie was charmed and pleased by the attention.

The postcard was preserved in very good condition for more than a century.


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