New York City’s First Automat
As the world became more mechanized, society was charmed by the ability to purchase things by machine. Gum, candies, cigars could be bought by dropping a coin and entertainment like nickelodeons brought moving pictures for a penny. Experiments with coin operated telephones were taking place so could coin operated food be far behind?
Joseph Horn and German-born Frank Hardart opened their first restaurant together in Philadelphia in December 1888. Their New Orleans-style drip coffee made them successful restaurateurs when the first automat opened in Berlin, the Quisiana Automat. Horn and Hardart opened their first Automat restaurant in the US in Philadelphia in June 1902.
On July 2, 1912 Horn and Hardart opened the first New York Automat in Times Square, a two-story building complete with stained glass, marble floors, and ornate carved ceilings.