The 5-Cent Restaurants


Found at /r/historyporn, posted by /u/onlysame1

A wonderful explanation and sources were provided by /u/my_interests:

tl;dr: This wasn’t just an ordinary restaurant, it was was part of a charity to provide the poor and unemployed with hot meals. The meals were subsidized by the donations to the charity. They served many thousands of meals per day.

The People’s Restaurants were conceived of and operated by a charitable organization[1], the Industrial Christian Alliance, in 1893 to help feed the poor and the unemployed. J.P. Morgan[2] himself sat on the Board of Directors of the organization.

To eat at a Five-Cent restaurant, one needed a nickel or a meal ticket, which could be provided for free[3] (PDF), or purchased at People’s Restaurant headquarters (100 tickets for $5) often purchased by good Samaritans and churches to give away to the less fortunate. The restaurants had a capacity to serve 1,000 – 2,000 meals per day and were open from 7am to midnight.

The Peoples Restaurant started with a single lodging house and restaurant at 170 Bleeker Street[4] (which is now a Mexican restaurant[5]) and expanded eventually joining with other organizations[6] such as the Merchants’ General Committee to help grow and open additional restaurants and grocery stores.

By December 1894 they had grown and had the capacity to provide 25,000 meals per day[7]  According to this New York Times article[8] (PDF) from January 26, 1894 on average the restaurant was serving 1,000 – 1,300 meals per day and increasing.

Though they did much good, it wasn’t without controversy[9]. The 5-cent restaurants were popular and received a lot of press coverage. Other charities claimed that people from outside of New York City, hearing about how well the poor are taken care of, began to come to New York City to live.

According to this source[10], in total nine People’s Five-Cent Restaurants were opened in various parts of New York City, though these were the only confirmed addresses I could find.


These restaurants remind me of the Viennese W.O.K establishments, about which I have written previously.
The Old Wolf has Spoken.


Albanian hatmakers in Shkodër, 1900-1920

Albanian Hatmakers

Hatmakers in Skhodër, Albania, 1900-1920. Photo by Kel or Pietro Marubi. Posted by /u/RMSEP at /r/historyporn.

Albania has a long, interesting and tortured history. I have a particular interest in the country, having visited there a number of times over the course of my career, and having gotten to know more than a few Albanians.

My interest in this small but intriguing Adriatic country was first piqued when I read “Albania, Alone Against the World,” an article in the October, 1980 issue of National Geographic. This was before the fall of the Iron Curtain (which, sadly, shows some signs of being raised again, given recent developments in Ukraine, but that’s another story) but Albania’s story seemed to stand out among that of other Communist countries – and at that time, North Korea was not as much in the news as it is today.

The article was written by Mehmet Biber, a Turkish photographer who was based in Istanbul, and is the product of his own visit and notes from that of a visit by Sami Kohen, another Istanbul resident. It contains some captivating photos of what life was like under the iron-fisted rule of Enver-Hoxha, the fiercely independent, brutal, and Stalinist leader of Albania from it’s liberation from the Nazis in 1944 until his death in 1985. From Wikipedia:

The 40-year period of Hoxha’s rule was politically characterized by the elimination of the opposition, prolific use of the death penalty or long prison terms of his political opponents and evictions from homes where their families lived and their internment in remote villages that were strictly controlled by police and the secret police (Sigurimi). His rule was also characterized by Stalinist methods to destroy his associates who threatened his own power.


This photo from Biber’s article shows the town of Shkodër in 1980. The banner says, “Let us fulfill all our obligations and smash the blockade.” Of course, there was no blockade, and no interest in punishing or otherwise invading Albania, but Hoxha’s paranoia knew no bounds. He wasted his country’s resources on numberless bunkers, supposedly to protect the fantastic wealth and ideology of his impoverished nation from the evil hordes, both Communist and Capitalist, who would overrun Albania like wolves.


Gjirokastër, the hometown of Hoxha. The banner encourages residents to “Study the Works of Comrade Enver Hoxha.” Photo: Mehmet Biber

Then came the fall of communism, and Albania was subject to changes that shook the nation to the core. A country that had almost nothing in the way of free enterprise and commerce (centrally-planned economy) was instantaneously and disastrously changed into a market economy. On the upside, goods and services that had never been available were suddenly popping up like mushrooms; on the downside, corruption and crime exploded.

Private car ownership was reinstated and businesses re-established. However poor city lighting and road quality became major problems as mud, potholes, street floods, and dust became permanent features on the streets. However, all buildings and apartments were denationalized, second-hand buses introduced, and modern water, telephone, and electrical systems built during 1992–1996 which form the backbone of modern Tirana. Enver Hoxha’s Museum (Pyramid) was dismantled in 1991 and renamed in honor of persecuted activist Pjeter Arbnori. (Wikipedia:Albania)


A bus in Tiranë, loaded almost past the breaking point, in 1992. Photo: Nicole Bengiveno, published in National Geographic, “Albania Opens the Door” by Dusko Doder, July 1992. This article gives a good overview of the change that hit Albania like a 16-ton weight.

As I visited Albania over the course of several years from 1993 to 2000, I watched Tirana’s central park area and the banks of the Lena river (among others) become choked with illegal and dangerously-constructed buildings. People simply squatted on public land, built what they want in whatever way seemed good, and regulation was nowhere to be seen. Grease the palms of officials and police to look the other way, and presto, a new business was born. In 2000, efforts were made by Edi Rama, a former Tirana mayor, to demolish illegal buildings to return the area to its pre-1990 state, but public land continues to be under pressure from illegal construction, and there is no clear outlook or direction for Tirana’s future at the current time.


Illegal construction on the Lana River in 2003


A similar scene, post-reconstruction

Devastatingly for much of the Albanian population, the financial shakeup of 1996-1997 included many Ponzi schemes, invested in by around 2/3 of the population; most of their investment was totally lost, and the resulting social upheaval was catastrophic. While things continue to improve slowly, it will take Albania generations to overcome residual problems in government and society.


The Pyramid of Tiranë, slated to be Hoxha’s mausoleum, then a museum, then a convention center, now a crumbling, defaced eyesore and the subject of debate – preserve or demolish?

I would love to be able to get back to Albania, which is now wide-open to tourism, although there are parts of the country where even the authorities don’t like to go, run by clans that would make the Hatfields and the McCoys look like the Sesame Street crowd. That said, the country has much to offer in the way of natural beauty and culture, and I wish them nothing but good as they shoulder their way into the future.


The beautiful town of Theth in Northern Albania – found at The Rom Rom.

The Old Wolf has spoken.




“Mega Millions” scam from Jamaica

beware_of_876_jamaica-scammers (1)

Had a call today from “Mega Millions Corporation” about a “coupon” that I had filled out at one of my “local convenient grocery stores,” supposedly “last March.” I was told that I had won a bank check for $1.6 million dollars, and a beautiful, luxurious Mercedes-Benz valued at over $125,000.00. Of course, there were taxes to be paid… but thanks to a “special offer,” those would only be $399.00, payable with a Green Dot money card. I’ve got a phone number to call back (1-876-856-8974) when I have that card in my possession, so I can take delivery of all these fantastic prizes.

I kept the drone on the phone for as long as I could… I wasted about 20 minutes of his time, scorched his eardrums with some choice insults, and hung up. I may call the number back later on the drive home, just to see if I can yank their chains some more. The guy’s accent sounded very Indian Subcontinent, with a hint of Nigeria thrown in. Sheesh. Some people’s children.

This is a good example of the Jamaica 876 scam. Another good website about this scam is here. These phone calls originate from Jamaica, even though they look like they are coming from toll-free numbers. Unless you know exactly whom you are calling, stay away from calls that come from area code 876. These calls, like the UK 40 70 prefix, can be routed to other countries, so you have no idea where these scumbags are hiding (beside under slimy rocks, naturally.)

Of course, the basic rules always apply: Never pay money to collect a prize of any sort. If people want you to wire money or use some sort of money card or ask for your private financial information, you are being scammed.

Be careful out there, folks. 

Relentless Spammers

These people don’t give up. Despite my sending them the vilest possible insults in Chinese, along with demands that they cease and desist, I get one of their spam messages almost every week.

From: “Kevin” <>
To: Everybody in the whole flipping world

Subject: [SPAM] Photo Retouching Services – Photo Cut Out


We are one of the best digital images retouching team located in China. We provide all kinds of image editing solutions to different companies all over the world.
We Specialize in:
. Cut out/masking, clipping path, deep etching, transparent background
. Beauty retouching, skin retouching, face retouching, body retouching
. Colour correction, black and white, light and shadows etc.
. Dust cleaning, spot cleaning
. Fashion/Beauty Image Retouching
. Restoration and repair old images
. Product image Retouching
. Jewellery image Retouching
. Real estate image Retouching
. Vector Conversion
. Wedding & Event Album Design.
. Portrait image Retouching
We Offer Best Quality; Best Service and the Most Competitive prices.
Every day we process and manipulate large volumes of images from U.S.A and Europe. So you will be in good hands when it comes to quality, service and the most competitive prices.
Waiting for your images for the free trial so that you can judge our quality of work yourself.
We are waiting for your reply.
Thanks & Regards,
Kanucssa Imaging Professionals
Contact: <redacted>

Just remember:

Rule #1: Spammers/Scammers Lie.
Rule #2: If a spammer seems to be telling the truth, see Rule #1.

Do NOT do business with these bottom-feeders.

(For more discussion about the nature of spammers, visit this thread at

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Why is it so hard to store energy?

Entropy cartoon lg

Good question; and here’s a lovely answer by a redditor, /u/api.

The second law of thermodynamics, which basically says that energy is determinedly lazy. It would much rather dissipate itself as heat and go play with all the other free energy. Yay!

Take solar for example. When sunlight strikes the Earth you get heat and very little work, maybe moving some air around. Damn lazy energy. Picture it this way. Imagine a bunch of rocks sitting around on a flat desert playa. The sunlight striking them provides enough power to move them around. But it doesn’t happen. Despite how cool it would be if rocks ran around on their own, all that energy would rather just goof off. That’s the second law in a nutshell. It’s why most of the universe is boring.

Life disagrees, which places life — including ourselves and our extended phenotype of gadgetry — at stubborn odds to the second law. Living systems are nature’s slave drivers, grabbing free energy and trying to coax it into doing work with all kinds of contraptions like chlorophyll and PV cells and wind turbines. The definition of work is more or less “something statistically unlikely to happen by chance.”

Storing energy is hard for the same basic reason as catching it.

Let’s say you put out a PV panel. There’s a wire dangling from it. Stick it to your tongue. Ouch! Ok, no, don’t do that, most large PV panels produce about 200W and you’ll talk funny for a while. But the point is you’ve managed to catch some energy there, and to force it down a wire as a nice, neat, low entropy single file line of electrons. Now what?

You could use it right then and there, which is your most efficient option. You’ve already got it after all. But unfortunately you might want to watch porngoof off on Reddit write your great work of literature while the sun is down.

To store energy you’ve got to take energy and use it to coax some material substrate into doing something statical-mechanically very unlikely. How likely is it for megatons of water to spontaneously flow uphill? Not very. How about all the ions in a lithium cell spontaneously migrating to the same side of a gradient? Every rechargeable battery is basically Maxwell’s Demon:

Think of it as herding cats at the molecular or quantum scale. You’ve got to grab every little molecule or atom or ion and say “you! go there!” All this cat herding gives ample opportunity for more of your precious energy (it’s lazy, remember?) to slip the yoke and migrate off as heat. Feel your battery while it charges. It gets warm.

We don’t love fossil fuels because they give us energy. Free energy falls from the sky, and while it’s hard to grab there’s quite a bit of it around. Do the math on how much solar energy falls on a square mile in a day and how much gasoline that translates into. It’s a lot. We love fossil fuels because they give us energy already stored in a very low entropy form that allows us to release it on demand. Too bad we don’t have an infinite supply of the stuff. We’ve gotten pretty good at using energy when we have it. Now we have to get good at storing it before we run out of carbon goop.

That and/or we have to figure out how to unlock the power stored in the atom without the problem of the power plants occasionally blowing up. Atomic energy is fossil fuel too, but it’s fossil fuel left over from cosmic events like supernovae and contains enough stored energy to power our little civilization for a very long time.

I recommend perusing the rest of the thread – there’s a lot of discussion on ancillary questions such as the prices/benefits of nuclear power.

We just need to keep working on the question. Fossil fuels are limited and filthy, and some day we’re either going to run completely out or have a nest so fouled that no one can live here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

How the Other Half Lives

I was just made aware of a marvelous website, It’s not completely up-to-date, some of the image links are broken, but it’s got some amazing stuff to peruse.


This picture, entitled, “Vegetable Stand in The Bend” comes from a seminal work by Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York published in 1890. Complete text and images are available here. I’m certain my New York colleagues will appreciate this; it describes conditions among the tenements of New York ten years before my grandparents arrived here from Italy, and conditions must have been largely the same when they came. It helps me make the history of my own family come just a little closer. The entire web site is a sinkhole for time, but I’m not sorry.

Note the bank behind the vegetable stand; in an article found in The New York Supplement in 1908, one can assume that the bank was at this point in time not long for the world. From Gateway to the Promised Land: Ethnic Cultures on New York’s Lower East Side By Mario Maffi, published in 1994. (Click through for the full text with references and much more intriguing New York history)

Italian banks (the Banca Termini, The Banca Caponigri, the Banca Barsotti, and many others on Mulberry Street) were a focal point for the community. In metropolitan New York alone, there were some 400 of them by 1900, all chartered, and perhaps many without charter. The rule for opening a bank was, ‘the more crowded the street on which the bank is, the better for the banker; better yet, the more crowded is the block where the bank has its habitat; best of all, the more crowded with paesani [townsmen] the tenement in which operates the banker.’ Often ‘attached to a saloon, grocery store, or cigar store – sometimes to a cobbler shop,’ or simply a corner in ‘the general merchandise store, where spaghetti and Italian cheese were on display,’ the bank provided important services to the neighborhood. It kept deposits, sent money home, functioned as an informal post office and travel agency, was a meeting place for friends and unemployed. The business transaction was a friendly affair between fellow countrymen and receipts were rarely used. But unscrupulous “bankers” were many, and not infrequently such “friendly affairs” ended tragically for the immigrant.

It is to be assumed from the address that Banca P. Caponigri was at 55½ Mulberry Street – that side of the block has now been replaced by a park.

Mulberry Street

The images in this treatise are haunting and unsettling. Despite all the things that are still wrong with our nation, it’s obvious that progress in raising the condition of our urban dwellers has made progress,with the obvious understanding that we still have far to go.

The Old Wolf has spoken.