"Cafeteria" & "One-arm lunch" and John R. Thompson

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Thu Jul 13 05:04:07 UTC 2006

I was hoping that the digitized Chicago Tribune and other sources would  help 
reveal the origin of the "cafeteria." Did John R. Thompson coin or  
popularize the name in 1893 Chicago? Thompson's story is largely untold on  the web.
I'm also looking at "one arm joint/lunch," but HDAS merely repeats  OED. Did 
that term come from Chicago or New York?
 one-arm joint U.S., a cheap restaurant or café  where the seats have one arm 
 wide enough to hold a plate of food, etc. one-arm lunch  U.S. = one-arm  
joint. one-arm lunch room U.S. = one-arm joint.  
 1915  N.Y. World Mag. 9 May 14 *One arm joint, a chair  dairy lunch. 1990  
N.Y. Times (Nexis) 1 Sept. I. 25/4 He said he had sampled 1,750 of the 5,595 
restaurants listed. ‘I  don't monkey with one-arm joints or luncheonettes’, he 
 1922  N.Y. Times Mag. 24 Dec. 8/1 They  blinked their windowed eyes on a 
passing world that rushed into *one-arm lunches and cafeterias. 1988  New Yorker 
1 Aug. 40/2 As more  self-service restaurants adopted individual sidearm 
tables..they were nicknamed  ‘one-arm lunches’.   
 1912  _M. NICHOLSON_ 
(http://dictionary.oed.com/help/bib/oed2-n.html#m-nicholson)  Hoosier Chron. 297 Everybody's  saying ‘Stop, Look, Listen!’..the 
white aprons in the *one-arm lunch rooms say it now when you kick on the  size of 
the buns. 1975  N.Y. Times 14 Apr. 28/5 Its  stores are transient, Its  stores 
aremom-and-pop groceries, one-arm lunchrooms, three-years-to-pay furniture  
emporiums, [etc.].

 Thompson's Cafeterias 

When it  came to catching a bite to eat on the run during the 1920s and 
1930s, many  Chicagoans relied on the Thompson's chain of cafeterias. By the end of 
the  1920s, Thompson's could be found on several central-city street corners, 
 as well as a number of the city's larger outlying business and industrial  
_J.  R. Thompson Passes Away; 62 Years Old; J. R. THOMPSON, RICH RESTAURANT 
OWNER, IS  DEAD Loses Battle with Heart Disease. _ 
Chicago Daily  Tribune (1872-1963). Chicago, Ill.: Jun 18, 1927. p. 1 (2 
John R. Thompson, who rose to great wealth by feeding millions in his  
"one-arm chair" restaurants, is dead.
_Buys First Restaurant._
After they had seen the great fair, the pair came toward the downtown  
section and wandered into a restaurant on South State street. It wasn't a  
pretentious place they selected, nor was the emal particularly delectable, but  the 
coffee was bad, very bad.
"I can make a better cup of coffee than that myself," said Thompson,  
according to the story as he used to relate it.
"Maybe you want to try it," the proprietor rejoined with sarcasm.
"Maybe I do, and I will," said Thompson.
"Buy the place and you can," came the next reply, this time in good nature.  
And before the young visitor went out he had agreed to purchase it all, lock,  
stock, and barrel, and even the mortgage.
_Start of Vast Business._
he had come with a bit of capital and was open to a business proposition,  
Mr. Thompson said, and there was begun the business which in one year ending  
recently provided 53,000,000 meals to the populi of American cities.
Not above slinging a napkin over his own arm in those early days and  
ministering to the wants of the folk who came into his place, Thompson made a  good 
business out of a restaurant which many times had been foreclosed out of  the 
hands of past owners.
In the next year, 1894, Thompson added two restaurants to his business and  
began the famous "string." Branching out as swiftly as his capital would 
permit,  and employing a system by which he took small profits by the quickest of  
turnovers, it was not long before the Thompson houses began to dot other  

_JOHN  R. THOMPSON, RESTAURATEUR, DIES; Great Chain of 'One-Arm Chair' 
Cafeterias  Brought Fortune of Millions. 70 GROCERIES IN CHICAGO Turned Restaurant 
Where  Others Had Failed Into a Sucoess-Paid ;1,000,000 for Art. _ 
Epectal to The New York Times.. New York  Times (1857-Current file). New York
, N.Y.: Jun 18, 1927. p. 17 (1 page) 

_JOHN  R. THOMPSON, RESTAURATEUR, DEAD; Founder of "One-Arm" Chain Won Fame 
as Horseman  and in Politics. _ 
The Washington Post  (1877-1954). Washington, D.C.: Jun 18, 1927. p. 8 (1 page
The Atlanta  Constitution (1881-2001). Atlanta, Ga.: Jun 18, 1927. p. 14 (1 
_JOHN  R. THOMPSON PASSES; Restaurateur Who Won Millions With Arm-chair 
Service Loses  Long Battle With Death REAPER CALLS J. R. THOMPSON _ 
Los  Angeles Times (1886-Current File). Los Angeles, Calif.: Jun 18, 1927. p. 
 1 (2 pages) 

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