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An Unexpected Business Resource from Duncan Hines

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If you have ever been down the baking goods aisle of the average American grocery store, you would have seen the multitude of boxed cake mixes and the name Duncan Hines.  You might have wondered if Duncan Hines was a real person (yes, he was) but he was more than just a name on those boxes of cake mixes.

Cover images for Duncan Hines’ Lodging for a Night and Adventures in Good Eating for 1947.

Duncan Hines was a traveling salesman, and like many such salesmen, he wanted a good meal and a good place to sleep at night. During his travels, he collected many good options and eventually decided to share this knowledge with other weary and hungry travelers. Beginning in the mid-1930s, he published Adventures in Good Eating and Lodging for a Night. This quote from the January 12, 1947 Evening Star begins:

Duncan Hines is, beyond any question of a doubt, America’s best-qualified expert on cooking and eating. He has spent 11 years hunting for something to eat. The search has already taken him over a million miles, into 9,000 eating places. This year he will cover another 60,000 miles, take many a dose of bicarb.

The article goes on to tell the story of the genesis of Adventures in Good Eating:

Incidentally, you should know that Hines is no red-faced, bulging gourmet who has spent a lifetime pleasing his palate. He started out as a perfectly average traveling salesman. In self-protection, he began to keep a notebook on good, safe places to eat. He added to the list on vacation motor-trips.

Friends heard about his notes, called to get an eating list before setting out on business trips.

List with location and prices of hotels in Washington, DC including the Blackstone, Mayflower, Sheraton, Shoreham, Statler, Wardman Park, Willard, Tabbard Inc.
Telephone operators, between 1914 and 1917, (p 76) 1947.

If you are wondering why I bring these titles from Hines up, I think they are good illustrations of finding business information in unexpected places. City business directories and telephone books often only provide fairly basic information and may not always tell you much about the business you are researching. Sometimes you may want more, and specialty directories and complementary lists of businesses, compiled for various reasons, such as these titles can often provide a bit more information and give you, well, more, flavor.

To piggyback on my previous post “Developing an Economic Snapshot? The Post-War Years as Example” I decided to take a look at the 1947 editions of both titles for Washington, D.C.

Adventures in Good Eating was clear about not being a complete list of all places to eat. For example, there were only 15 listed for Washington, D.C., including the Water Gate Inn, the Iron Gate Inn, Hogate’s Seafood Restaurant, and the Methodist Building dining room. The listing for the Occidental, which is still in business, had this to say:

A favorite with Congressmen and diplomats. Walls are covered with autographed photographs of famous men who have come to Washington in the past 50 years. Specialties: sea foods.

Drawing of the Hotel Statler in Washington includes prices for single and double rooms and lists other Statler hotels in Boston, Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, New York and Pittsburgh. Arthur F. Douglas was President of Hotels Statler Company
Official Hotel Red Book, (p137) 1947/1948.

As for Lodging for the Night, it includes hotels and inns as well as guest houses, motor courts, and vacation resorts, and again, they are clear about the title’s limits. In Washington only the Blackstone, Mayflower, Sheraton, Shoreham, Wardman Park, Willard, Tabard Inn, and Statler were listed. The information on the Statler located on 16th between K and L Streets only indicated that it was a new hotel and had 800 rooms.

Of course, because the Duncan Hines titles were limited and only covered particular time periods, other titles like the Hotel & Motel Red Book, the Hotel & Travel Index, and the OAG Business Travel Planner were much more comprehensive and could provide more information.

To compare, I looked at the 1947 edition of the Hotel & Motel Red Book, which had about 61 hotels listed for Washington. There were large ads for a number of hotels that featured images of the hotels themselves and included those things they considered selling points, like air conditioning, fireproof rooms, information about its proximity to Washington landmarks, dining room and garage information, etc. In addition to location information, the manager’s name was also considered standard information. Many even included some corporate information. For example, the Statler was owned by the Hotels Statler Co., Inc., Arthur F. Douglas was the president, and Herbert C. Blunck was the manager.

These titles were quite popular; and when Duncan Hines died in 1959, they continued without him for a few more years until they ceased in 1962.

Statler Hotel. Exterior of Statler Hotel, Theodor Horydczak Collection.

If you want to get a look at the Statler, there are a few in the Theodor Horydczak Collection, including a few of the exterior, as well as ones of the bar, the lobby, dining room, and one of the rooms. In the 1950’s the Statler was sold to Hilton and is now the Capital Hilton.


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Comments (2)

  1. Fascinating Ellen!

  2. Reading this was all cakes and ale!

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