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1925

From The New York Times:

A shabbily dressed man walked into an opulent restaurant. It was the 1970s, when people still made a sartorial effort for a night out in Manhattan. Alone, he took a seat in the lounge.

The restaurant’s owner, Laura Maioglio, wasn’t wearing her glasses, so her vision was blurry. She didn’t think much of the visitor. But her widowed mother, Piera Maioglio, who was with her, did. “Oh, that poor person, he doesn’t look like he can afford Barbetta,” Piera told her daughter.

Together they observed the man from their usual table in the back of the 100-seat dining room, lit by a majestic chandelier built in 1775, acquired from a palazzo in Turin, Italy.

A Barbetta menu from that era, at the New York Public Library in the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Division, lists roast rack of lamb for two for $14.50. There was an additional 75-cent cover charge. Back then, it would have cost at least $20 a head for dinner with wine, plus an extra $2 to $3 for shavings of white truffle flown in from Piedmont, in Northern Italy. Dinner would easily cost about $150 for two today.

Piera, who was extremely beautiful, Laura recalled — “a cross between Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo” — instructed a waiter to bring the man a menu to alert him what he was in for. Once he saw the prices, she thought, he could make a face-saving excuse to leave and not have to skulk out after being seated in the dining room.

The Maioglio women had been watching over the theater district Italian restaurant, at 321 West 46th Street, since 1962. That was the year Piera’s husband and Barbetta’s founder, Sebastiano Maioglio, died at the age of 82. Laura was their only child.

The man didn’t budge after glancing at the menu, contending that he was waiting for three friends.

Laura went to take a closer look. It was Mick Jagger.

“Who’s Mick Jagger?” Piera asked.

“He’s with the Rolling Stones,” Laura said.

“Who are the Rolling Stones?” asked Piera.

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Photo

The Rolling Stones and Andy Warhol were regulars at Barbetta in the ’70s. More recently, the Clintons and Lin-Manuel Miranda have stopped by. Credit Dina Litovsky for The New York Times

These days at Barbetta, most guests dress casually. On a recent evening, Rick Miramontez, the press agent for “Hello, Dolly!” and “Springsteen on Broadway,” sat tie-less in the lounge, something he would not have dared to do when he visited for the first time in 1979. “It was very dressy, very starched, a necktie place through the ’80s, no question,” he said.

Indeed, from its townhouse exterior to its brocade chairs and swag curtains, Barbetta is a throwback to the days of the fancy restaurant.

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From Atlas Obscura:

The Twilight of the Analog Photo Booth

The effort to save a rare beast on the road to extinction.

On a recent Saturday morning in New York, the analog photo booth in the Ace Hotel on 29th Street was out of order. Inside the booth, which costs $5 plus tax for a strip of four black-and-white photographs (cards accepted), a piece of paper hung askew atop the mirror, level with the sign reading “EYE LEVEL.” “Sorry, I’m broken …” it read. “I’ll be better soon. XO, Ace.” Barely a dozen of these film-based photo booths remain in the city, a fact that would have been inconceivable as recently as the 1990s.

In September 1925, the crowds stretched around the block for the first ever Photomaton studio, 30 blocks north of the present site of the Ace Hotel, at 51st Street and Broadway. Each subject paid 25 cents, was bathed in flashes of light, and waited eight minutes for a strip of eight photographs. Eighteen months later, the New York Times reported, “Young Photomaton Inventor Will Celebrate His First Million.” In today’s money, this would be close to $14 million.

Anatol Josepho, the inventor of the "Photomaton" photo booth that debuted in September 1925 at 1659 Broadway in New York City.
Anatol Josepho, the inventor of the “Photomaton” photo booth that debuted in September 1925 at 1659 Broadway in New York City. Library of Congress/LC-DIG-ggbain-25079

The inventor, Anatol Josepho, was born in 1894, and came from nothing. Josepho, né Josephowitz, grew up a banished Jew in Siberia. At 15, he went off to explore the world, starting in Berlin, where he bought a Brownie camera and learned to take photographs. Later, he took it to Budapest, to Shanghai, and eventually to New York. In Harlem, in 1925, he raised the $11,000 required to build a prototype for the first curtain-enclosed photo booth—the cost of nearly six reasonably sized houses at that time. Josepho was charming, and obsessed with the project, writes photographer Näkki Goranin. Despite being a newcomer to the city, “[he] was able to talk people into loaning him the money, find the appropriate machinists and engineers to help him build his Photomaton machine, and be sought out by the leading industrialists in America.”

Josepho stood on the shoulders of decades of tinkerers who had been flirting with this technology since the 1880s, when a craze for vending machines of all kinds, including seltzer, chocolate, and postcards, seized Europe and America. Concurrently, photographic technology was developing at a galloping pace. Some early booths offered prints for a penny, others unreliable tintypes with near-unrecognizable subjects. Throughout the 1920s, the technology was becoming more and more refined—until, in 1925, Josepho patented the booth that set the standard for the next 90 years.

Two friends pose for a picture in a photo booth, date unknown.
Two friends pose for a picture in a photo booth, date unknown. simpleinsomnia/CC BY 2.0

Before long the photo booth was everywhere: malls, bars, airports, post offices, Fred Astaire films. In the United States, they were often owned by the company PhotoMe, says Tim Garrett, an artist who co-runs the site Photobooth.Net with friend and colleague Brian Meacham.

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Aron Streit, Inc. (est. 1925): There are a lot of reasons to get excited about the last major family-owned matzo baker in the country. For one, you can peer through the bars on the windows for a glimpse of the action, and there will be a pretty good chance that someone will reach through the bars to hand you freshly-baked matzo. Second, the rabbis will give you a tour of the factory that churns out 2.5 million boxes of matzo a year – mostly the old-fashioned way. Third, their non-Passover matzo comes in about fifteen flavors.

However, they will not be around for long: it is official that they will be closing the Manhattan factory, plagued by outdated equipment, after Passover in April, and shift all operations to its New Jersey plant.…

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