Jan Whitaker's Consumer Society

What the reviewers said ...

House & Garden:
“Looking for something more rewarding than reading tea leaves but just as much fun? Dip into Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn. ... The book is both informative and clear-eyed, and leavened with wonderful illustrations."

Katherine A. Powers, Boston Sunday Globe:
“Enlightenment – wondrous revelation, in fact – has come in the shape of Jan Whitaker’s Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America. Here is a real contribution to social history, one that disperses the cozy fug that surrounds our present notion of the tea room, an institution that we associate with homey clutter and a certain comfortable dowdiness.”

Ian Marlowe, Tea: A Magazine:
"Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn (there was one, incidentally), is such a good read – informative, enlightening, and often amusing. ... a superb job on the research, ... will stand as a great reference tool. The excellent illustrations and photographs perfectly complement her text."

Diana Krauth, Pioneer Valley Women’s Times:
"Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn is a beautiful, complete, educational and entertaining work."

Margaret Flanagan, Booklist:
“Readers will relish this irresistible slice of American popular culture.”

Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn


Strangely enough, tea rooms didn't always serve afternoon tea, and their guests were equally likely to order coffee. The underlying meaning of tea room, perhaps, was a women-friendly message that said "welcome" at a time when many eating places were male strongholds. Tea rooms were extremely popular with women in the first decades of the 20th century, both as businesses and as places to eat.

Table of Contents
Welcome to the Tea Room, An Introduction: Transportation, Temperance, and Women -- Mah-Jongg, College Girls, and Candy Stores -- Tea Rooms by Other Names -- 1890s to 1950s
1 Society Sips: High Season in the Hotel Tea Room -- Elite Patrons -- Gentlewomen Proprietors -- Feature: Delicate Teatime Treats
2 Village Bohemian: "We're All Mad Here" -- The Lure of 'Atmosphere' -- Celebrity Spotting -- From Tea Room to Nightclub and Speakeasy -- Other Bohemias, Other Tea Rooms -- Feature: Miss Crump Serves Crumpets
3 Roadside Resorts: More Cars, More Tea Rooms -- Gentrifying the Countryside -- Chicken and Waffles -- Just Like Home, But Without Electricity -- Country Charm -- Box Lunches and Sleeping Porches -- Feature: Two Seasons at the Tea Chest
4 Ye Olde Tea Shoppe: Colonially Quaint, Yet Up-to-Date -- Historic Houses, Inns and Taverns -- Other Sorts of "Oldeness" -- Not "Olde," Just Quaint -- Feature: Ye Names
5 Metropolitan Meals: Twentieth-Century Boom -- Location, Location, Location -- Women, Children, and Men -- Candy, Soda Fountains and Chains -- The Magic of Toast -- Can a Tea-Man Be a He-Man? -- Feature: Catering to the College Crowd
6 Outrageously Orange: Color Crazy -- Just Like the Movies -- Tea a la Russe -- Reading the Tea Leaves -- Fanciful Food -- Feature: "Eating Should Be a Fine Art"
7 The Department of Tea: Best Places to Eat -- Chicken Pies and Diet Plates -- Special Attractions -- Mind Your Manners -- Feature: Hobbing with the Nobs at Fields
8 Conclusion
Bibliography, Index

Selected Works

Department Store History Books
A round-the-world tour of major department stores from their 19th-century origins to their continual reinventions in the 21st. Emphasizing the well known stores of France and less well known examples in Germany.
An examination of the buildings, people, merchandise, show windows, parades, and hoopla that made the big-city American department store so memorable.
Tea Room History Book
From Greenwich Village and the New England roadside of the 1920s to the Gypsy tea rooms of the Depression, running small tea rooms provided a new occupation for women.
Essay in Magazine
Gastronomica article on the country's first fast food eateries which got their start in the 1880s.
Essay in Book
Explores women's impact on the 20th century restaurant industry (UMass Press).