The Evolution of American Diners

Diners are quintessentially American. They represent affordable dining for the working class, mobility, entrepreneurship, and mass production. Diners have evolved over the decades to accommodate our trends and tastes, from tableside juke boxes to Greek-American cuisine.

The earliest diners were lunch carts pulled by horses. Entrepreneurs parked them outside factories to feed hungry workers as they came on and off shift. Many stayed open 24-hours to accommodate all shifts. Walter Scott began the first lunch cart/wagon service in Providence, Rhode Island in 1872.

Photo by Michael Kleen

Casey’s Diner, at 36 South Avenue in Natick, Massachusetts, is a rare 1922 Worcester model and possibly the oldest continually operating diner the United States. Like many early diner owners, Fred Casey began as a food cart salesman. He purchased this ten-stool diner in 1927 and originally located it on Washington Street. It moved to its current location in 1977. Diners in the 1920s were primarily made of wood.

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Pragmatism vs. Ideology in Lincoln (2012)

An intellectual debate between opposing philosophical approaches plays out in Steven Spielberg’s presidential biopic.

Director Steven Spielberg’s biopic of President Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment during the closing months of the American Civil War was a critical success, with strong performances by Daniel Day Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones. Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of resolute and idealistic Thaddeus Stevens was the perfect foil to Lincoln’s more pragmatic and folksy personality.

Thaddeus Stevens

Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) was a U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania, who served from 1849 to 1853, and again from 1859 to his death in 1868. Stevens was a staunch abolitionist and leader of the Radical faction of the Republican Party, who sought total legal and social equality for African Americans, including redistribution of Southern lands to freed slaves.

President Lincoln and Congressman Stevens had the same goal. Both wanted the Thirteenth Amendment passed, which would forever outlaw slavery in the United States. That required a two-thirds majority vote, and Lincoln wanted the amendment passed in the House of Representatives before the Confederacy surrendered, which was not a matter of if but when. In order to get the necessary votes, Lincoln needed bipartisan support from conservative Democrats as well as Republicans. Stevens, however, refused to compromise and moderate his tone.

In one scene of dialog from Lincoln, Lincoln and Stevens meet in a smoke-filled kitchen to hash out their differences. Lincoln needs to get Stevens on his side, but Stevens seems uninterested in compromise. This conversation is a perfect contrast between ideology and pragmatism. Pragmatists are willing to meet their opponents halfway, while ideologues will only accept a total and complete triumph of their ideas.

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Reflections on Capitol Hill During Impeachment

After weeks of pointless delay, the House of Representatives finally voted on Wednesday to deliver the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, which they did a little after 5:30pm. With solemn ceremony, a procession marched from one wing of Congress to the other, where Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) laid out the ground rules for the impeachment trial of President Trump.

I watched live news coverage as the House procession wound its way through corridors and the Capitol rotunda, where I had been just yesterday. My mother-in-law was visiting, so my wife and I took her to Washington, DC, where she had scored us a tour of the White House and the Capitol Building. Tuesday’s weather was gloomy, but today was bright, sunny, and unseasonably warm.

There couldn’t have been a greater contrast between the mood inside the Capitol and the mood outside. Outside, tourists went about their usual business, laughing, having fun, jogging, walking dogs, and snapping pictures. We even saw a troupe of Buddhist monks taking selfies at the Lincoln Memorial. Our Uber drivers were chatty and talked about how long they had lived in DC.

Aside from one young woman wearing a pro-impeachment t-shirt, there was nothing to indicate a momentous event was underway in the Capitol. No one was arguing, looked sad or somber, protesting, or fighting in the streets. Just a bunch of people enjoying beautiful weather in our nation’s Capitol, like it was any other day.

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The Great Despair

This intimidating bronze figure in Green Mount Cemetery, 1501 Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland is dedicated to John George Baetjer (1843-1915) and Mary Anna Koppelman Baetjer (1846-1920) and their family. Designed by Hans Schuler, a graduate of the Rinehart School of Sculpture, the seated woman is simply titled “Meditation”. J. George Baetjer, a lifelong Baltimore resident, was a successful dry goods merchant.

The Great Despair

Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, New York

This magnificent fort at the mouth of the Niagara River preserves the scene of several battles, including a 20-day siege during the French and Indian War.

Click to expand photos

The Battle of Fort Niagara was fought from July 6 to July 26, 1759 between French forces under the command of Captain Pierre Pouchot and British forces under the command of Brig. Gen. John Prideaux and their American Indian allies at the confluence of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River during the French and Indian War. The 20-day siege ended in British victory and French capitulation after French reinforcements were scattered at the Battle of La Belle-Famille.

In early July 1759, Brig. Gen. John Prideaux marched approximately 3,500 British and Iroquois forces along Lake Ontario to Fort Niagara, floated a battery of artillery across the Niagara River to Montreal Point, and began to lay siege. Captain Pierre Pouchot had sent away most of his troops, so he had about 520 French regulars, militia, and Seneca Iroquois allies on hand to defend the fort. Unfortunately for him, many of his Seneca allies deserted when the British arrived.

To make matters worse, the British ambushed and destroyed a relief column under the command of Col. François-Marie Le Marchand de Lignery at La Belle-Famille on July 24. Pouchot sent an officer to British lines to meet the wounded Lignery and confirm reports of the ambush. Seeing little hope, he surrendered on July 26.

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29 Diner in Fairfax, Virginia

The 29 Diner, at 10536 Fairfax Blvd in Fairfax, Virginia, is a 1947 Mountain View, and its original owners were D.T. “Bill” and Elvira “Curly” Glascock. It was known as the Tastee 29 Diner in 1992 when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A former waitress and her husband, Ginger and Fredy Guevara, purchased the diner in the 1990s and restored its original name. They owned it until 2014, when it was bought by John Wood. Despite advertising “24 hour” service, its hours vary throughout the week. You gotta try their BBQ!

Diner Resources