Category:Tea Rooms

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Blue Parrot Tea Room Foyer, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, postcard front
Chicago Northwestern Passenger Terminal Tea Room, Chicago, Illinoispostcard front
Mary Louise Tea Room, Los Angeles, California, interior, postcard front.
Marshall Field And Co Tea Room, Chicago, Illinois, postcard front

The term "tea room" generally refers to an establishment were tea (and sometimes coffee) is served at tables, often accompanied by light lunches and an array of pastries. The term "tea room" derives from the old British custom of taking a light refreshment called afternoon tea, generally around 4:00 pm. In America, however, it came to acquire specific connotations, until it came to refer to a place where women could dine unaccompanied by men, where alcohol was not served, and where those who lived in modest circumstances could arrange to meet with friends in a low-priced but delightfully furnished environment.

Tea Room History

For more information, see Tea Room History

The history of tea rooms is inextricably bound up with the history of a number of women-led progressive crusades of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the abolition of slavery, female suffrage, equitable marriage and divorce laws, the rights of women to own businesses, and, for a brief time, the abolition of alcoholic beverages.

Many tea rooms took the concept of decor and service to a level that we would now identify by calling them "theme" restaurants. There were Old Colonial tea rooms, English-style tea rooms, American farm-style tea rooms, Russian tea rooms, antique shop tea rooms, Bohemian tea rooms, Asian tea rooms (often referred to as tea gardens), and Gypsy tea rooms. These latter places generally offered a "free tea leaf reading with every meal," thus mingling the provision of the beverage of tea with telling fortunes by tea leaves.

Tea Room Galleries

For more information, see Vintage Tea Room Postcards

For more information, see Vintage Tea Room Business Cards

For more information, seeVintage Tea Room Matchbook Covers

The material culture of tea rooms includes Postcards, Business Cards, and Matchbook Covers, each of which has its own extensive photo-gallery at this site.

catherine yronwode
curator, historian, and docent
The Mystic Tea Room

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