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Hamburgs 10 Cents: 1940

June 1940. "Diner along U.S. Highway No. 1 near Berwyn, Maryland." Acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

June 1940. "Diner along U.S. Highway No. 1 near Berwyn, Maryland." Acetate negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Looks like she's waiting for someone

Who could it be, the mailman or John Garfield?

Impossibly Cheap

According to the Interwebs, 5 cents in 1940 is worth 91 cents now. I don't know anywhere I can get a hot dog for that much. Even Costco's cost $1.50.
I can however, buy a hamburger at McDonalds for $1 so.. go figure.

Hungry or haughty?

I'm smitten by the delightful waitress with the bee-stung lips. How Ms. Pennifer can declare her to be haughty when compared to the snarls and pointed disinterest of many waitstaff today is a mystery. Can I have a Hamburg and whatever brew is the coldest, sweetheart?


I recall that in the area around Rochester, New York, in the mid-'50s, what most of the world calls the hamburger was known as a hamburg, though my brief residence in Maryland earlier in that decade brings no similar memory, this photo's evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

I can also recall from several road trips from Rochester to Ohio that in the little stretch of littoral Pennsylvania in between, signs for a typical stainless steel eatery would spell it "dinor."

"Hamburg Steaks" Have a Storied Past

Going back to Marco Polo and Genghis Khan's grandson. You can read all about it on Wikipedia.

June in Maryland

It looks hot. You wouldn't catch me sitting out in the midday sun. Even with a bottle of old school beer.

The Whole Sign

Purity Body Flavor. Drink Ballantine Ale and Beer.

Hamburgs Still Exist

There is a drive-in locally that has been around since the 1930s. Their sign is a bit newer, I believe, but not by a whole lot.

Get off my lawn

I'd have to be mightily hungry for a hamburg -- and there be nowhere else to get one for miles around -- before I'd ask anything of the haughty missy behind the counter. Just saying.

Mystery Meal

I suppose we'll never learn what's included in the 25¢ Platter.

She's nice, but --

That's a honey behind the counter, but what really caught my eye was the old trolley being recycled as a diner. Look over the doll's shoulder, and you can see the clerestory ceiling of the former streetcar.

Dames are swell, but a fellow's got to have his priorities in order.

And all those signs

are lettered by hand, amazing.

Mustard and pickles only please.

I think I'll take one of those hamburgs with a bottle of Pepsi. My dad the beer snob would like to know if you have any IPAs. He'll take a hot dog, no ketchup. (We're from Chicago. Order a hot dog with ketchup there, and you'll get the hairy eyeball from everybody.)

U-Needa Cigarette Vendor

The cigarette machine is a 1930s U-Needa Vendor.

Curious when we stopped calling them "hamburgs".

Stealth slot

There's a Mills 'Vest Pocket' slot machine front and center on the counter. These were tiny machines with a flap over the payout chute and another flap to cover the tiny reels on top. With just a coin slide in front it was just a metal cube that looked very innocuous, yet it was a fully automatic 3-reel gambling device. I'm surprised to see that in 1940 Maryland.

Booster seats

I like the wooden blocks under the stools to bring the seats up to the counter height!

The bottles

The bottles on the counter as best as I can make out are L-R Pepsi-Cola, American Beer (Baltimore), Free State Supreme Beer, Ballantine Ale, Gunther's Beer, Arrow Beer (from Baltimore), Budweiser, National Bohemian pale beer, American Nut Brown Ale, ?, Pepsi again

That's all I got (completed with Dave's help).

Times change

Hard to believe there once was a time you could stop at a burger stand and get a beer with your hamburg - in full public view, no less.

Purity Body Flavor

That's a billboard for Ballantine Ale there on the right. Looks like a swell place to grab a quick lunch!

Kewpie doll

I’ll leave the beer and soda bottles to someone else. What caught my attention was the gal behind the counter.

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