Welcome to “Eating History,” a series in which Jaya Saxena of the New-York Historical Society mines the vast archives of the museum and library in search of vintage images and ephemera that offer a look into how New Yorkers used to dine. Follow the museum @NYHistory for more.
It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed the only food you could buy off the street were Mr. Softee, hot dogs, and pretzels with the consistency of sawdust. But it turns out New York has a long history of street foods. Everything from waffles, pies, oysters, and fried clams were available at one time. However, as more and more affordable restaurants opened across the city, New Yorkers ditched the convenience of food from a cart for the ambiance of silverware and seats.
Now, of course, the food truck phenomenon and the resurgence of farmer’s markets has made it so that you can find anything you want to eat without ever going inside a restaurant. But maybe, instead of a phenomenon, the city is just getting New York back to its roots. Check out these photos of street carts of years past from the New-York Historical Society’s Photographs of New York City and Beyond collection, and tell me, is it time for Wafels & Dinges to get a horse-drawn cart?
Click through the gallery above to see photos of NYC food trucks from years past.