Fast Food: Michigan Central Railroad’s Breakfast Menu from 1919
See what passengers traveling from Detroit to Chicago on the train would have paid for breakfast in 1919. This will make your stomach and your wallet happy.
The Michigan Central Railroad has a lot to offer history buffs. Incorporated in 1846, the train provided coast-to-coast service in Michigan from Detroit to St. Joseph. Wikipedia tells us the original focus was not to move people but to "provide freight service between Detroit and Chicago by train to St. Joseph and via boat service on to Chicago."
A rail connection to the Windy City was eventually completed, but the line across the state almost never got started. The private investors who launched the venture with $1,500,000 in 1836 quickly ran out of money. The City of Detroit kicked in $50,000 which wasn't nearly enough to complete the work, and even a $5,000,000 buyout by the state (a lot of money in 1837) was eaten up long before the tracks were laid. In 1846, ten years after the first railroad spike was driven, the company was sold again, this time to the newly incorporated Michigan Central corporation for $2,000,000. The Michigan Central Railroad would soon realize the dream of a train trip from Detroit to Chicago.
Traveling by train was the quickest way to get anywhere in 1919. The first nonstop transatlantic flight would be completed this year, but airline travel as we know it was a long way off. This era was the golden age of rail travel in America and luxury amenities could be purchased as part of the trip. As a journey might take quite some time, dining cars were incorporated into the lineup and sleeper cars could be ticketed by wealthy passengers for the voyage.
A member of the Michigan History Facebook group shared a Michigan Central Railroad breakfast menu from 1919 and you won't believe the prices. Just 30 cents bought you two eggs- boiled, shirred, fried, or scrambled, or a serving of magnum prunes. Omelets were 65 cents, and for the health or budget-conscious, a half a cantaloupe was just a quarter. Sixty cents and a hearty appetite out a lamb chop and a baked potato on the plate. Take a look at the complete 1919 breakfast menu here, and keep in mind these were dining car prices, but the porter would serve you in the private room of your sleeping car for an additional 25 cents.
We hope foodies and railroad buffs enjoyed this trip back to 1919 across Michigan on the Michigan Central Railroad.
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