Jan Whitaker's Consumer Society


Tea rooms frequently chose memorable names which often imitated those of Colonial taverns. Here are some examples from the early 1900s.

The Fernery, New York City

The Copper Kettle, Northampton, Massachusetts

Arts & Crafts Cottage, Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

The Green Dragon, Philadelphia

The Whistling Oyster, Ogunquit, Maine

The Sign of the Motor Car, Dennis, Cape Cod

Rest-A-While, New York City

Will o' the Wisp, Greenwich Village, New York City

Teacup Inn, Chicago

The Busy Bee, St. Louis

Aunt Em's, Derry, New Hampshire

The Jolly Miller, Hope Valley, Rhode Island

The Sign of the Golden Orange, Miami

Tea Pot Tavern, Rochester, Minnestota

The Twin Owls, Estes Park, Colorado

Two Girls' Waffle House, Anchorage, Alaska

The Miramar, Columbus, Ohio

House of the White Peacock, Washington DC

Rick Rack Bird, Chicago

The Chidwa, Detroit

Ye Mayflower, San Francisco

The Wind Blew Inn, Towertown, Chicago

The Sign of the Green Kettle, Hartford, Connecticut

The White Doors, outside Baltimore

The Silver Latch, Minneapolis

Ye Old Tea House, Stone Harbor, New Jersey

Ye Olde Whipple Tea Barn, North Pownal, Vermont

Ella Cinders Tea Room, Ashland, Virginia

Brick Oven Tavern, Boston

Bandana Kitchen & Tea Room, Asheville, North Carolina

Dove and Distaff Tea Garden, Peace Dale, Rhode Island

Robin Hood Tea Room, Kent, Ohio

The Betsy Ross, Washington DC

To read about my book on tea rooms, Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn, click here.

Tea Room History

Tea rooms were very popular in America in the first half of the 20th century, both as places for women to go and as businesses for women to run.

The Crumperie, Greenwich Village, New York ca. 1916-1926
Mary Alletta "Crumpie" Crump ran the Crumperie with her elderly mother for about 10 years. In that time, she moved the little tea room about six times. That was not unusual in Greenwich Village, where everything was very fluid during the Bohemian teens and 1920s. The Crumperie drew actors and artists from the area. Like other Village tea rooms it was a place to hang out, play a game of chess, eat a bowl of pea soup, and visit with friends.

The Crumperie interiors were decorated in a homey style with a quilt on the wall, and the bureau that you see in this drawing. When Crumpie was fortunate enough to secure a location with a fireplace, she placed a duck decoy on the hearth. In the Crumperie guestbook, a guest wrote:

The decoy duck sits by the fire
All day, and never seems to tire
He wears a feather in his tail
And eats the crumpets when they're stale.

The Mary Louise Tea Room, Los Angeles, California ca. 1920

The room looks as though it's been decked out for a special party, maybe a wedding shower or a bridesmaids' luncheon. Each place setting has a floral display. Dressed dolls surround the be-ribboned centerpiece. Clear glass dishes appear at each place, with a stemmed glass of what looks like fruit salad. The Mary Louise, with its Oriental carpet, chandelier, fresh cut flowers, and pink and white color scheme, is a good example of a high-class tea room of the early 20th century, many of which were found in premier hotels. They attracted the society elite, who found it fashionable to entertain their guests in tea rooms.

Further reading:

"Tea Rooms," Town and Country, June 24, 1905.

"Charm of the Colonial Tea Room," New York Times, January 26, 1908.

"The Development of the Tea Room," Harper's Bazaar, March 1908.

"Taverns and Tea Rooms as a Business for Women," Herminie Dudley and Sarah Leyburn Coe, Good Housekeeping, June, 1911.

"The 'Tabby Cat' Tea House," Elizabeth L. Adams, House Beautiful, August, 1914.

"The Coming of the Tea House," Mary Harrod Northend, American Cookery, June-July, 1915.

"Do You Own a Barn, and Old Mill or a Tumble Down House?" Woman's Home Companion, May 1922.

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).