Vintage Tea Room Postcards

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Copper Kettle Tea Room, 23 Mercantile Place, Los Angeles, California, postcard front, circa 1909. The hand-lettered caption on the black and white photo that was the basis for this card reads "Copper Kettle Inn," but that is an error, because all advertising ephemera and references to the establishment in contemporary newspapers and magazines identify it as the Copper Kettle Tea Room. The Copper Kettle opened in 1908 under the proprietorship of two sisters, Smith college alumna Harriet Morris (1880 - 1961) and Barnard College alumna Mildred Morris, helped by their friend Beatrice Wigmore. In addition to tea and light lunches, The Copper Kettle sold Japanese and Chinese basketry and gift wares; by 1915 they were also marketing confections or candies that were sold along the Southern Pacific Railroad route. The building that housed The Copper Kettle -- and, in fact, every shop on both sides of the street, and the entirety of Mercantile Place itself -- was demolished in 1923 as part of a large urban high-rise building program.

The beginning of the tea room movement happened to coincide with the postcard craze, which was in full flower from 1905 until World War One. (If you are unfamiliar with the tea room movement, you can learn more about it in the page on Tea Room History.)

Even after the postcard craze waned a bit during the 1920s, many tea rooms kept on printing postcards, as they had learned that illustrated mailing cards were an inexpensive way to boost their business. Postcard stamps only cost one cent back then, so in some some tea rooms, when you sat down to order, a pre-stamped postcard showing the room in which you were seated accompanied the menu, and you were encouraged to write a message and mail it to a friend. Thus, today's postcard collectors find many tea room cards with messages on the back that read something like this:

Hello, Edith —
We found this wonderful
little place on the way
to the Falls — Maybe
you can come along next
time and we'll stop here
to eat. The view is lovely
and the food is great.
— Mabel


Dating Tea Room Postcards

The Mah Jong Room at the Mary Louise Tea Room complex opposite Westlake Park (now MacArthur Park) in Los Angeles, California, postcard front.
New Tea Room, Second Floor, Kolb's German Tavern, New Orleans, Louisiana; postcard front.
Hotel Jefferson Tea Room Saint Louis, Missouri, postcard front.
Alma's Tea Room, Intersection Route 3 and 38, Manchester, New Hampshire, postcard frontwhite border era. Seating capacity 250. Open the Year Around. Est. 1925. Alma M. Truesdale, Prop.
Day’s Ice Cream Garden Tea Room, Ocean Grove, New Jersey, postcard front, chrome era.
Blue Parrot Tea Room Foyer, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, postcard front, linen era.
M and O Tea Room and Wishing Well, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Blanche Moffett, proprietor 1949, postcard front, linen era.
The Sun Parlor Tea Room at the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Dallas, Texas, circa 1920; postcard front, white border era.

On this site you will find many, many interior and exterior views of quaint, old-fashioned tea rooms, as well as the backs of cards, some with messages and some simply indicating the name of the printer or additional information about the tea room. A few of them are photographic prints, but most take the form of postcards.

Postcards that depict a place are also known as view cards. Those that are about a topic, such as cute kittens or railroads are called topicals. Topicals can be view cards, and vice versa. A classic example of a view card that is also a topical is a postcard of a train station. It shows a view of the station, and might be collected by someone who collects view cards of specific towns, counties, states, or nations, or certain forms of architecture -- or it may be collected as part of the topic of railroading. Tea room postcards are mostly considered to be view cards, but some of them may overlap with popular collection topics such as clothing fashions, houseplants, food service, or street signage.

Dating postcards can be a little tricky, but here are five basic ways that collectors can date a card:

  • By Era of Manufacture
  • By Copyright, Postal Code, Publisher, or Series Number
  • By Automobile Models, Clothing Fashions, and Signage
  • By Back-of-Card Postmarks, Fontography, and Handwriting
  • By Census, City Directory, Newspaper, and Magazine Research

If you want to learn about how these techniques are combined to date a postcard or, more importantly, to date when the photograph was taken, please visit our detailed page on Dating Tea Room Postcards.

Tea Room Postcard Index

Our Gallery allows you to browse for vintage tea rooms alphabetically, first by State or Nation, then by tea room name.

Please note that as we build this site, not every state will have a tea room. Watch us grow!

Any nation outside the USA (e.g. Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, France, Austria, Germany, Italy) is listed by a nation-name instead of a state-name. If a given nation accumulates more than 16 tea room postcards, i will break the nation into provinces, counties, or districts and move the images into those named pages.

Because the primary focus here is on Anglophone nations (whose inhabitants are the primary users of fortune-telling tea cups and the primary frequenters of tea rooms), i think we'll be lucky if we find more than 4 tea rooms in any given European nation -- and most of these will have been pre-WWI establishments, created for the convenience of British and American tourists. This is obvious in the fact that even in European nations, the term "Tea Room" often appears on signage, rather than, or alongside of, an indigenous term like "Tee Stube")

Tea Rooms of the United States

Tea Rooms of the British Commonwealth

Tea Rooms of Europe

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

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