What lunch looked like on Fifth Avenue in 1950

It’s the weekday, probably noon, and thousands of city workers are unleashed on the sidewalks, looking for a quick bite before it’s back to the 1950s nine-to-five office world.


Paris-born photographer Andreas Feininger, who worked for Life through the early 1960s, captures the Midcentury madness and a sea of straw hats in Lunch Rush, shot in 1950.

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11 Responses to “What lunch looked like on Fifth Avenue in 1950”

  1. Pherae Le Sann Says:

    as a photographer and a writer I enjoy your blog immensely …

  2. Force Tube Avenue Says:

    I didn’t realize straw boater hats for men were popular all the way into the 50s.

    As a child, I remember being impressed by the unique 5th Ave traffic lights, each made of what looked like bronze, and topped with a statue of Mercury. It’s sad they are gone, but still can be seen in this photo.

    Thanks for the memory.

  3. wendy Says:

    Ah, for the days when people didn’t eat lunch at their desks and worked 9-5.

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    The straw hats tell us that it’s summer, but look at how covered up everyone is, heading to coffee shops and restaurants in the 3-martini lunch era. Imagine the luxury of an entire hour to relax and eat!

  5. Tom Hakala Says:

    Some interesting things to note: Fifth Avenue was still a two way street. Although it’s a bit hard to tell, I believe that a number of the Fifth Avenue Coach Company busses shown are double-deckers (the bus on the left about two-thirds up from the bottom of the photo has three rear windows matching photos of the double-deckers in that era). Many stores still have awnings – air conditioning was still far from universal in those days – even on Fifth Avenue.

    • robert dowling Says:

      yeah, definitely when ny was ny as they say. you are right 3windowsm denotes dbl decker, only ran on 5h als this co had smaller square bodied buses that ran only on xtown streets and thru central park, use to see them on west side in 60s and 70 sts. I’m from westside and we had omnibus, loved getting on one that was newly paintedpeople today woiuld protest the paint and smell, buses skipoing stops, change being made no tokens, transfer papers, people sneaking on buses and riding the rearm bumper. on west side we also had surface transit, usually red and white color plying certain streets, basically as far as it know a bx and upper manhattan co. they are part of nycta but know as mabstoa for bx and man, all por most pvt taken over in 50s by nycta. just like city in 90s took over last of pvt cos queens lines, ny bus,etc etc their school buses taken over but routes then sold to pvts. yes nyc has not lost flavorbut has lost its grittiness, more important than flavor I think.

  6. Force Tube Avenue Says:

    Responding to Timothy Grier, the New York Times tells us the Mercury traffic lights were on Fifth Avenue from 1931 to 1964. Here is a link to the article:


  7. steven Says:

    I think its older than that. Straw Boater hats were out of fashion after WW2 .

  8. Tom B Says:

    That people crowded picture I saw back in the fifties was my first impression of NYC. I could not comprehend why and how they live like that. Dad told me it was a city that never sleeps. Something always open for shopping. Now I realize that is not necessary true. I finally visited NYC 20 years later for the first time and keep coming back annually. Such a great place.

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