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Music – “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” from Classic Christmas Party by Kay Kyser & His Orchestra. Released: 2012.
Ah….imagine New Year’s Eve at the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The glitz, the glam, the booze! Where the beautiful people go to see and be seen.
One hundred years ago this 2013 New Year’s Eve, fashionable and wealthy New Yorkers probably dined in style for a 1913 New Year’s Eve dinner at the hotel, most likely accompanied by the musical stylings of some band or orchestra, perhaps even the Waldorf Astoria Orchestra, although little information about the evening at the hotel on that date is available.They might have danced to the likes of popular 1913 songs like “Peg O’ My Heart” by Al Bryan, or “The International Rag” by Irving Berlin. Also popular in 1913 were “I’m On My Way to Mandalay” by Al Bryan and “Snookey Ookums”, by Irving Berlin. Oh, the excitement! The festivities! The dancing! The tuxedos and top hats! The champagne! The champagne!
I located a vintage menu from the Waldorf Astoria, and although not New Year’s Eve, was dated March 9th, 1913. One could assume that the prices a few months later, especially for New Year’s Eve, would have escalated accordingly, nevertheless, here is a selection of what was available on a 1913 dinner menu at the Waldorf Astoria. Just to put things into perspective, I included the 2013 equivalent prices, (if the same menu still exists, which I doubt), adjusted for inflation, and calculated using the 2013 CPI (Consumer Price Index):
Rack of Lamb, Renaissance
1913 $1.10 2013 $25.17
Galantine of Capon
1913 $ .75 2013 $17.16
Bisque of Clams
1913 $ .30 2013 $ 6.86
1913 $1.30 2013 $29.74
Roast Turkey with Giblet Sauce
1913 $ .65 2013 $14.87
1913 $ .30 2013 $ 6.86
1913 $ .30 2013 $ 6.86
1913 $ .60 2013 $13.73
Moet & Chandon Imperial
Crown Champagne (bottle)
1913 $ 1.83 2013 $43.00
If our 1913 diner selected the soup (Bisque of Clams, $.30), Venison ($1.30), Peach Melba ($.60), and washed it down with a shared bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial Crown Champagne ($1.83 per bottle), add a bit more for a side dish of potatoes or another vegetable (about $.30), the grand total without champagne would be about $2.50. Sharing a bottle of champagne would add another $.45 to the tab, for a grand total of $2.95 for a luxurious dinner, with music AND dancing!
If our 2013 reveler selected the same items, if available, Bisque of Clams ($6.86), Venison ($29.74), Peach Melba ($13.73), a side dish of potatoes or another vegetable ($6.86), the grand total without champagne would be about $57.19. Add on the glass of champagne, shared with friends, of course ($10.75), our 2013 reveler will have to spend at least $67.94 to enjoy the same meal as his 1913 predecessors did, and probably a good deal more.
I looked at the venue for next week’s New Year’s Eve bash at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. They are offering the “Peacock Alley Dinner Buffet”, on Tuesday, December 31st, 2013, commencing at 7:00 p.m. (with a maximum seating time of 2 hours per customer, thank you very much).
The buffet includes one (1) champagne toast (probably a thimbleful, but perhaps I’m being unfair), however, it does NOT permit access to after dinner dancing. Per adult, you will pay $275.00 plus a $16.12 processing fee to reserve your New Year’s Eve dinner. For that, you will have the privilege of grazing for two solid hours on whatever their buffet offers (for the full meal deal including dancing, you’d better be prepared to fork over $500 per adult – if you bring your aged 12 and under child, it’s a mere $200 per kid).
Imagine, though, if you were at the Peacock Alley Dinner Buffet on New Year’s Eve, 1913. You would have to fork out the princely sum of $11.68, plus $.68 handling fee for a wallet-busting $12.36. Your name better be Astor or Rockefeller to splurge like that! But music, dancing and revelry were probably part and parcel of the deal and I’ll bet party hats and favours were also included.
Well, I suppose it’s all relative, but you can bet that in 1913, if you didn’t have a wad full of cash in your pocket, you’d be out of luck paying for your New Year’s Eve dinner. The earliest credit cards didn’t materialize in this country, for general use, until 1950, when Diner’s Club came out with their card, which could be used at participating restaurants.
For all of those revelers celebrating New Year’s Eve at the Waldorf Astoria, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy (but only for 2 hours). The rest of us will probably be eating pizza and having just as much fun.
Happy New Year!