Concession Stands in the 1920s

Nathan's Famous hot dog stand began as a Coney Island concession stand.
Nathan's Famous hot dog stand began as a Coney Island concession stand. (Image: Adam Rountree/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Concession stands are typically small booths or sales areas where patrons at sporting events, public parks or other recreational sites can purchase food and beverages. In the 1920s, concession stands served many venues, such as baseball games and amusement parks. A series of Massachusetts concession stands even provided the basis for a famous hotel and restaurant chain.

Concession Stands

The concession stands of the 1920s were not so different from those that exist today. The term "concession stand" came from the fact that the owner of a venue, such as a theater, granted a concession to vendors by allowing them to sell food and beverages on his premises. Although movie theater concession stands are typically operated by the theater, the term is still used. During the 1920s, Coca-Cola operated concession stands throughout the U.S. Workers at these stands wore special aprons, some of which can still be found and are now considered valuable collectibles.

Howard Johnson's

Howard Johnson's is a large hotel and restaurant chain throughout North America that was widely popular in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The company was founded by entrepreneur Howard Johnson. One of his earliest ventures was to open up a number of concession stands on Massachusetts beaches during summers in the 1920s. These concession stands sold hot dogs, soft drinks and ice cream, and proved to be successful money makers. In fact, Johnson was able to use the profits from these concession stands to open his first Howard Johnson's restaurant in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Baseball Games

Concession stands had been a staple of baseball games since the latter part of the 19th century, and were still popular during the 1920s. As evidenced by the lyrics of the classic song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," baseball fans enjoyed food and beverages — even the famed peanuts and Crackerjack — while at a game. Chicago's Wrigley Field is famous for being the first American ballpark to install a permanent concession stand, built in 1914. By the 1920s, other ballparks had followed suit. One beverage that was not served by concession stands during the 1920s, however, was beer, which was outlawed under Prohibition beginning in 1919.

Nathan's Famous

One of the most familiar landmarks at New York's Coney Island amusement park is Nathan's Famous hot dog stand. In 1916, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker started a business consisting of a single concession stand in Coney Island that sold hot dogs, which were made using a recipe concocted by his wife. In the ensuing years and into the 1920s, the reputation of Nathan's Famous grew, and today it remains one of the most renowned hot dog stands in America.

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