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June 10, 2024 23 mins

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey there, history fans, we're taking the day off, but
don't worry. We've got plenty of classic shows to tide
you over. Please enjoy these flashback episodes from the TDI
HC Vault. Hello, and welcome to This Day in History Class,
a show that pays tribute to the parrots of the

(00:20):
past by telling their stories. Today, I'm Gabe Lucier, and
in this episode, we're talking about the time when an
ex president's pet parrot livened up his memorial service by
giving a rather obscene eulogy. The day was June tenth,

(00:43):
eighteen forty five. President Andrew Jackson's funeral was rudely interrupted
when his pet parrot began squawking profanities during the service.
It's possible the bird was upset by the large crowd,
or maybe he was just grieving more vocally than his
fellow mourners. In either case, the parrot's outburst was so

(01:05):
disruptive that he was eventually taken outside where he could
curse more freely. The bird in question was an African
gray parrot named Paul as in Pollywanna Cracker. It wasn't
the most inspired name for a parrot, but we'll talk
more about that a little later. Andrew Jackson had originally

(01:26):
bought Paul as a gift for his wife, Rachel. Unfortunately,
she died of a heart attack in December of eighteen
twenty eight, shortly after Jackson was elected president. He was
so grief stricken that he reportedly had to be pulled
away from his wife so that the undertaker could prepare
the body for burial. It's no surprise, then, that Jackson

(01:47):
continued caring for the parrot after his wife's passing, and
since parrots can live to be fifty years or older,
that relationship lasted all the way up to Jackson's own
death seventeen years later. That's a long time to spend
together with a pet, and it gave Paul plenty of
opportunity to pick up some of the saltier language used

(02:08):
by one of history's most hot tempered presidents. Parrots, of course,
are notorious mimics, capable of memorizing and reproducing the sounds
they hear, whether it be a baby crying or a
president swearing. Paul eventually earned a reputation for cursing at
visitors who came to the White House. So while we

(02:29):
can't say for certain that he got his foul mouth
from his owner, it seems like a safe bet. After all,
Jackson was the guy who installed a dozen spittoons in
the White House, participated in more than a hundred armed duels,
and orchestrated the Indian removal process that forced tens of
thousands of Native Americans off their land. The fact that

(02:50):
he was a bad influence, even on a parrot, isn't
all that surprising. Still, for all his shortcomings and controversial policies,
Old Hickory was a celebrated military commander and the seventh
President of the United States. He had been out of
office eight years by the time of his death on
June eighth, eighteen forty five, but she never would have

(03:13):
known it from the size of the crowd at his funeral.
The service was held two days later at the Hermitage,
his family home in Tennessee. More than three thousand people
gathered to pay their respects, and among them was an
African gray parrot named Paul. It's unclear who decided the
pet parrot should be present in the crowded room, but

(03:35):
whoever it was, quickly regretted the decision. When Paul started loudly, chirping, squeaking,
and swearing. Reverend William Menefee presided over the funeral and
later described the scene that day, writing, quote, before the sermon,
and while the crowd was gathering, a wicked parrot that
was a household pet got excited and commenced swearing so

(03:58):
loud and long as to disturb the people, and had
to be carried from the house. The reverend went on
to say that Paul had quote let loose perfect gusts
of cusswords, and that the mourners were horrified and odd
at the bird's lack of reverence. The biggest question in
all this is, of course, what exactly did the parrot say? Sadly,

(04:23):
Reverend men Ifie failed to transcribe the bird's tirade, though
I imagine it was something to the effect of and
you can keep your crackers too. Speaking of Polly wanna cracker,
let's talk about that old cliche. The name Paul has
acted as a generic name for a parrot since at

(04:46):
least the early sixteen hundreds. The earliest written record of
its usage is in a satirical play called Volpone written
by Ben Johnson in sixteen oh six. Many of the
play's characters are described as a animals that somehow reflect
their key character traits. For example, the title character Volpone

(05:07):
is likened to a fox due to his slyness and cunning.
Johnson also included two parrot like characters in the play,
Mister and Missus Politic would Be or Paul for short.
The English couple tries to curry favor in Venetian high
society by mimicking the words and actions of Volpone and
his crew. Johnson describes this as parrot like behavior, since

(05:31):
they're essentially repeating what they hear without knowing what any
of it means. No one knows for sure if Johnson
was the first to apply the term Paul to parrots,
but his play certainly helped popularize the name. Some British
bird owners later adapted Paul into the much cuter, friendlier Polly,
but both versions of the name eventually crossed over to

(05:53):
the United States and into stories about pirates, so the
name wasn't as played out in Jack since Day as
it is in our own, and even if it was
an unimaginative name for a parrot, it was still nothing
to swear about. Though Paul apparently disagreed. I'm Gabe Lucia

(06:18):
and hopefully you now know a little more about history
today than you did yesterday. If you enjoy today's episode,
why not follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You
can find us at TDI HC Show. You can also
rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts, or you
can write to me directly at this Day at iHeartMedia

(06:40):
dot com. Special thanks to guest producers Joey pat and
Casey Pegro, and thanks to you for listening. I'll see
you back here again soon for another Day in History Class.

(07:05):
Hello and welcome to This Day in History Class, a
show that pours a fresh cup of history every day
of the week. I'm Gabe Bluesier, and in this episode,
we're looking at the story of the legendary Automad, a
mechanized approach to food service that made eating out both
more whimsical and more democratic. The day was June ninth,

(07:36):
nineteen oh two, America's first coin operated cafeteria opened in Philadelphia.
Known as the Automat short for Automatic, it was a
completely waiterless restaurant where customers help themselves by selecting fresh
made meals from a wall of coin operated compartments. Instead

(07:58):
of placing an order, customer would simply drop a nickel
or two into a slot, turn a knob, and open
the little hinged window to retrieve the item of their choice.
This new modern approach to dining attracted a broad range
of customers thanks to its speed, consistency, and relative low cost.

(08:18):
Diners also appreciated being able to see the food before
they bought it, a clear advantage over ordering off a menu.
The concept proved so popular that over the next several decades,
owners Joe Horn and Frank Hardart went on to establish
a whole chain of automats nearly one hundred and fifty total,
But the one that started it all opened on this

(08:41):
day in nineteen o two at eight eighteen Chestnut Street
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Horn and Hardart became business partners in
eighteen eighty eight when they opened a quick service lunch
counter in downtown Philadelphia. It was the perfect spot for
white collar workers with short lunch breaks, and over the

(09:02):
next few years, Horn and Hardart opened several more just
like it. The duo's biggest claim to fame was their
fresh drip coffee, a rarity in the dark times when
boiled coffee was the standard. Things were going well for
Horn and hard Art, but by the turn of the
twentieth century they were looking for ways to further streamline

(09:23):
their quick lunch concept. Other industries of the era had
greatly improved their speed and efficiency through the use of
conveyor belts and other forms of automation. Horn and Hardart
wondered if similar methods could be applied to food service,
and their search for an answer ultimately led them to
a company in Berlin called Qui Si Sauna. In eighteen

(09:45):
ninety five, Quisisana had opened the world's first automat on
the grounds of the Berlin Zoological Garden in Germany. The
original menu was limited to cold sandwiches, glasses of wine,
and coffee, but the American entrepreneur viewers were convinced the
technology could be used to sell much more than that.
They met with a sales representative for Quisisana, and in

(10:08):
nineteen oh one Hardart took a trip to Germany to
test the machines out for himself. Fully sold on the concept,
the duo worked out a deal to have some of
the machines sent over from Berlin. It took about two
years for the equipment to arrive in Philadelphia, but once
it did, Horn and Hardart made up for lost time

(10:28):
by opening their first Automat just a few months later.
The exact opening date is somewhat disputed, with most sources
saying it was on June ninth and others on June twelfth,
but something everyone agrees on is that the place was
in high demand. Curious customers flocked to the Automat on
opening day, with the restaurant taking in just under eight thousand,

(10:51):
seven hundred nicols. The Philadelphia Inquirer gave a glowing report
on the Automat's opening, writing that Horn and Hardart had
all of the city's quote rapid transit luncheon problem, making
it easier than ever to eat on the go. The
Automat's customers were impressed by the food, both the quality

(11:12):
and the variety, but it was the speed and low
prices that truly won them over, and it's easy to
see why too. The place really was a bargain. Coffee
costs just a nickel, and a slice of pie cost
only two. More substantial items like a turkey and gravy
entree would set you back five nickels, so you could

(11:32):
easily eat a full three course meal for fifty cents
or less. There were plenty of options to choose from, too,
including comfort food favorites like macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie,
and salisberry steak with mashed potatoes. The automat was open
for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with some dishes being swapped
out depending on the time of day. Dessert, however, was

(11:55):
always on offer, with some of the most popular choices
being ice cream, rice pudding, and an array of freshly
baked pies, everything from coconut cream and lemon meringue to
huckleberry and pumpkin. The climate controlled compartments made sure every
dish stayed just the right temperature, and new batches of
freshly brewed coffee were brought out every twenty minutes like clockwork.

(12:20):
Oh and if you're wondering how the coffee was dispensed,
that's maybe the best part. Instead of retrieving a full
cup from behind a little glass door, customers would drop
a nickel in a slot in the wall, turn a crank,
and watch with delight as piping hot coffee float out
of Italian crafted spouts shaped just like the head of

(12:40):
a dolphin. The presentation was top notch, but the coffee
was no slouch either. It was the same drip brewed
variety that Horn and Hardart had popularized at their lunch counters,
and it was such an improvement over the harsh boiled
coffee you'd find in other restaurants that it quickly became
the automat's number one cell. In fact, in the company's heyday,

(13:03):
it sold more than ninety million cups of coffee every year.
Who knew dolphins were such hard workers, Horn and hard
Art customers felt like they were in an automated wonderland,
where just about anything they could want to eat or
drink was just a few nickels and a knob turn away. However,
even though the restaurants appeared fully automated, behind the scenes,

(13:26):
there was a constant flurry of human activity on the
other side of the glass wall of compartments. A bustling
staff continuously refilled the slots after each purchase, and of course,
the food itself was also prepared by human hands. At first,
the cooks worked in a prep kitchen housed on site,
either in the back or in a basement, but as

(13:48):
the operation grew larger and more locations were added. Food
preparation was moved to a central commissary in midtown. Another
human fixture of the automat or the cashiers, affecttionately known
as nickel throwers. They worked from booths in the middle
of the restaurant, exchanging paper bills and larger coins for
those ever important nickels. The automat concept was such a

(14:12):
hit that Horn and Hardart opened a second Philadelphia location
in nineteen oh five, then a third in nineteen oh seven,
and a fourth in nineteen twelve. That same year, they
also branched out to New York City, opening an automat
in the heart of Times Square. It was a major
turning point for their business, as the Automat's faster dining

(14:33):
experience seemed tailor made for the city's growing class of
busy urban workers. The Times Square Automat quickly became a
lunchtime institution, drawing in so many customers that soon a
second New York location was needed, and then another and another.
Within ten years, Horn and Hardart had expanded to forty

(14:54):
locations in the Big Apple alone, including a flagship store
capable of feeding ten one thousand customers. A day. During
that time, the partners also invested in new and improved
equipment based on custom designs, as well as assembly line
kitchens that used standardized recipes, ensuring uniformity from one automat

(15:15):
to the next. As you might imagine based on all
that expansion, the automat's appeal wasn't restricted to workers on
lunch breaks. The restaurants were one of just a few
chains in the early twentieth century where unescorted women were
allowed to dine on their own. Horn and hard art automats,
or H and H's as they were sometimes called, were

(15:37):
also great places to take children. Picky kids appreciated the
visibility of the different foods available, and of course working
the machines was a treat in itself. Did I mention
the drink dispensers were shaped like dolphins. Despite the low prices,
automats weren't just for people on a budget either. The
novelty alone was enough to lure in upper class customers,

(16:00):
but they stuck around for the markedly high brow atmosphere.
In addition to the animal themed drink spouts, most automats
featured dining spaces with elaborate art deco details, high ceilings,
chrome paneling, stained glass windows, and wrought brass lighting fixtures.
Automats were affordable, but there was nothing bare bones about them,

(16:22):
and as a result, they attracted an incredibly diverse crowd,
from factory workers and secretaries to politicians and movie stars.
Gregory Peck said the scrambled eggs at the Automat were
the best he ever tasted, and Irving Berlin was such
a fan that he eventually wrote the Automat's unofficial theme song,
a little ditty called Let's Have Another Cup of Coffee.

(16:45):
In nineteen twenty four, a columnist for a New York
newspaper described the restaurant this way, The Automat is almost
as much of an institution along Broadway as Times Square.
No review or variety show is complete without its quip
about the famous nickel in the slot eating place. It
swirls with the froth of Broadway life, the peripatetic ads

(17:09):
of the one flight tailors, the raw rah boys, the
chorus girls, scrapping newsboys, leading men, visiting school teachers, gamblers,
ladies of the evening, and hard boiled gents. It is
one of the melting pots of Broadway, where all casts
rub elbows. The Automat's novelty and low prices were obvious

(17:32):
selling points, but that was the thing that really made
it a special place, the equalizing effect it had on
everyone who went there. During the Great Depression, the Automat
was a lifeline for people in dire straits. For many,
it was the only meal they could afford, and for
those who didn't even have a nickel, it was still
a warm place to get off your feet without fear

(17:54):
of being hurried out by the weight staff or a manager.
There were free glasses of water at the Automat and
free ketchup two, and in the darkest days of the Depression,
some customers would mix the two together and drink what
they called a depression cocktail. But you know what, They
drank it while sitting in marble topped tables two seats

(18:15):
over from the city commissioner or a Broadway actress. The
Automat offered a truly democratic dining experience, and the day
to day lives of millions of people were better for it.
Against the odds, the restaurant with the most impersonal business
model somehow became one of the most welcoming places in
the city. A point of intersection for people from all

(18:38):
walks of life. By the early nineteen fifties, there were
more than one hundred and fifty horn and hard art
automats spread across Philadelphia, New York City, and Baltimore. That
made it the largest chain restaurant not just in the
country but the whole world. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, and

(18:59):
after he hitting that high peak, the automat began its
slow decline. The first major sign of trouble came in
nineteen fifty when H and H finally raised the prices
of its famous coffee from one nickel to two. Many
longtime customers felt it was a betrayal and started going elsewhere,
especially after the prices of all the other items also

(19:21):
began to rise. Without economy on its side, the automat
lost a large part of its charm. Meanwhile, other innovations
in food service were making the automat seem more antiquated
by the day. For example, fast food restaurants started adding
drive through windows to cater to America's growing car culture,

(19:42):
a convenience that the city bound automat just couldn't match.
Profits continued to slip throughout the nineteen sixties as consumer
tastes changed, and the price of ingredients rose higher and higher. Eventually,
the company had to make some tough choices, including the
decision to close its original store on Chestnut Street. On

(20:02):
December twenty eighth, nineteen sixty eight, America's first automat closed
its doors after sixty six years of serving the public.
By that time, the Automat machines at that location had
been shut down for over a year, serving as little
more than decoration for an otherwise normal cafe. Six months later,

(20:23):
the restaurant's historic interior, including much of the machinery, was
donated to the National Museum of American History. It's not
currently on view to the public, but it's still nice
to know it's there. The Horn and Hard Art Company
muddled on through the nineteen seventies, with more automats closing
every year. In nineteen eighty one, they filed for bankruptcy,

(20:46):
and many of the restaurant buildings were converted into McDonald's,
Burger King and a host of other fast food franchises.
A handful of automats remained open, alongside H and H's
bakery cafes, but by then it was only a matter
of time. In nineteen ninety, Philadelphia's last automat shut its doors,

(21:06):
marking the end of the company's almost ninety year run
in the city. Then just one year later, the last
H and H Automat in New York City, and the
country served its last cup of coffee. Since that final
closure in nineteen ninety one, multiple attempts have been made
to resurrect automat style dining in the United States, but

(21:30):
so far none of them have worked. Over in Europe, however,
the dream of coinop dining is alive and well, at
least in some places. The Netherlands, for instance, is home
to a Dutch chain of walk up fast food restaurants
that still use the automat system. It's called Fabo, and
there are currently about sixty shops nationwide, with more than

(21:53):
twenty in Amsterdam alone. There are no vaulted ceilings, marble tabletops,
or dolphin cow spouts, but as a late night gathering
place for locals and tourists alike, Fabo is a bit
of a melting pot, just like the original automat, and
as long as people somewhere are still buying cheap, delicious

(22:13):
food from little glass boxes, the spirit of the H
and h Automat lives on. I'm Gabe Lucier and hopefully
you now know a little more or a lot more
about history today than you did yesterday. If you enjoyed
today's episode, consider keeping up with us on Twitter, Facebook,

(22:34):
and Instagram, where you'll find us at TDI HC Show.
You can also rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts,
or you can get in touch directly by writing to
This Day at iHeartMedia dot com. Thanks to Chandler Mays
and Ben Hackett for producing the show, and thanks to
you for listening. I'll see you back here again soon

(22:55):
for another day in History class.

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