Posts Tagged ‘vintage matchbook covers’

A souvenir from the other New York World’s Fair

April 21, 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair. There, New Yorkers were introduced to the touch tone phone, caught their first sight of the Unisphere to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and were able to view Michelangelo’s Pieta.


Amid all the nostalgia for that fair, it’s worth remembering the century’s other New York World’s Fair. The 1939 version, also in Flushing Meadows, captured the imagination of the Depression-era city.


This Art Deco souvenir matchbook features the fair’s logo: an image of the Trylon obelisk and 18-story Perisphere, the iconic, futuristic buildings that helped make the fair seem so magical.

Both symbolized the promise of the Machine Age. Yet after the end of the fair, they were scrapped and used for armaments in World War II.

Wow, look at that pill box. No childproof safety features!

Two top 1930s attractions at Rockefeller Center

December 7, 2013

RockcenteroysterbarNo no no, not the Christmas tree, ice skating rink, or the observation deck.

According to this vintage matchbook cover, visitors should check out the tobacco shop as well as the Gateway Restaurant Oyster bar and Cafe.

Both are in the RCA Building—not the GE Building, as it’s called today. The matches look like they date to the 1940s.

A New York Times article from 1934, not long after RCA Building first opened in 1933, reports that the restaurant would have “a forty-foot oyster bar” occupying two shops on the ground floor and the basement.


Matchbook covers were once fantastic venues for advertising. Check out these holiday-themed beauties from 1930s New York restaurants.

Vintage matchbook ads for ethnic restaurants

September 1, 2011

You can discern a bit about the city’s culinary history based on the ads bars and  restaurants used to print on the free matchbooks they once offered.

Patrissey’s opened in 1906 and served Neapolitan standards. The old-school eatery snagged a new name, Nolita’s, in 2000. Which didn’t last, of course.

“Sometime around 1920, enterprising Mr. Lum took a five-minute walk north from Chinatown and opened this Canal Street Institution—three-story, white-tiled—with clothier Moe Levy as angel,” writes Knife and Fork in New York, a 1948 guide.

Lum Fong is gone, but another Chinese restaurant has taken its place.

“Distinctive European Atmosphere” raves the copy on this matchbook about the Russian Tea Room. Knife and Fork in New York wasn’t too impressed:

“Menu offerings include Russian hors d’oeuvres, beef a la Strogonoff, chicken cutlet a la Kiev, and French and American stand-by dishes.”

The place is currently still open, with the same garish decor it’s been known for for decades.

When city businesses advertised on matchbooks

March 14, 2011

It was cheap and easy advertising back in another New York, when everybody smoked everywhere—restaurants, bars, parks.

And though the businesses on these vintage matchbook covers are long gone, they were going strong when the covers were printed between the 1920s and 1940s.

Roulston’s was a grocery store chain headquartered in factory building near the Gowanus Canal.

Pete Hamill wrote of his father’s job there in 1994’s A Drinking Life:

“You should be very proud of your daddy, my mother said. He only finished eighth grade and he is working as a clerk. The reason is his beautiful handwriting.

“He was working at the main office of a Brooklyn grocery chain called Thomas Roulston & Sons and brought home nineteen dollars a week.”

Astor Coffee—I was hoping it was an old-school coffee house on Astor Place, perhaps where the Starbucks is now.

Instead, it was the house blend at the gorgeous and grandiose Astor Hotel, late of Times Square, a lovely place to hang in the 1920s.

The coffee was so popular they sold it at retail establishments around the city.

I couldn’t find anything about the Flatiron Cafeteria; I imagine it was just another spot in Depression-era New York to get a cheap cup of coffee and sandwich.

But I love the matchbook cover—and of course, the old-school phone number.

Today, 164 Fifth Avenue is an Eileen Fisher clothing store.