You’re in New York, you’re hungry, and you just want to stuff your face with a burger — but you’ve only got 20 cents to your name. Problem? Nope. Not if you are open to journeying back to 1961. Those 20 cents will purchase you not only your meal of choice, but one served on a roll, with onions — and made of “pure meat.”
And if you can’t smell that burger frying in Byron Coroneos’s color photograph of a 42nd Street delicatessen, then I don’t know what to tell you. Coroneos, a little-known photographer, delighted in capturing everyday American scenes on color film. Working from the 1940s through to the late 1960s, it is the mundanity of his work that, today, propels us back in time.
For this set, Coroneos spent a night peering into windows and shops to see who was buying what, and doing what, on the streets of Manhattan. At the time, passers-by must have wondered why on earth he was wasting his film. Today, what he captured is fascinating.
So — if you are not sold on a “pure meat” burger, maybe a pie from Pizza-Burger Pete will entice you? It will set you back 15 cents but, as they tell you, “We bag ’em ‘n’ box ’em to take out!”
Or there’s the Horn & Hardart Automat: Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart opened their first restaurant way back in 1888, in Philly, and their Automats were especially popular during the Depression. The one you see here was located in Times Square.
Coroneos captured book stores, camera stores, shoe stores, souvenir stores. But most fascinating of all is the opportunity offered by International Business Machines (you may know them as IBM).
Yes, using IBM technology, it was possible to obtain “An electronic analysis of your personality and character — for your amazement and amusement”. As the photograph shows, it certainly pulled the crowds.
All pictures: Byron Coroneos/Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images