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The First Diners

Growing Popularity

Fall of the Diner

Diners Today




Coloring Book Pages (pdf):

Jaypeg Loves Donuts

Zeero Takes a Spin



The First Diners
July 2002

The first diner started as a horse-drawn lunch mobile in Providence, Rhode Island around 1872. The owner would travel from factory to factory selling cheap, quickly made food to workers. He achieved instant success, and soon many other people copied the idea.

What did the lunch wagon serve? You could have ordered boiled eggs and sliced bread for 5 cents or sliced chicken for 30 cents. You could also order a "chewed sandwich." It wasn't actually chewed, but made out of finely chopped scraps of meat mixed with mustard and served on bread.   photo of donuts

The lunch mobile spread throughout the northeast, where many factories operated. The original Club Diner in South Jersey started as a horse-drawn lunch mobile. In the early twentieth century, the owners stopped driving the carts and parked them on empty spaces along the street, so they could put in bigger kitchens.

Unlike regular restaurants, diners are prefabricated; they are built at a factory then delivered and set up on site. That's why you need to walk up steps to get inside. The first man to mass-produce diners was Patrick J. Tierney. He named them dining cars after the popular Pullman dining cars found on trains. Diners were built to resemble train cars in hopes of capitalizing on this popularity. Tierney died from indigestion, and rumors still say that it was after eating food at one of his own diners.

Next: Growing Popularity

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