NJ AUTHOR TO TRACE ‘ROADMAP TO THE DINER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’ July 31, 2023
The Paterson Museum, 2 Market Street, will host New Jersey author Michael Gabriele on Saturday, Aug. 5, 1 p.m. for a program titled A Roadmap to the Diner Capital of the World. This presentation will examine how diners have played an important role in New Jersey’s history, spirit, culture and mythology.
Gabriele has written two books on Garden State diner history, published by The History Press. Golden-age diners, with their streamlined architecture, terrazzo floors and neon lights, are iconic symbols of American culture, nostalgia and manufacturing ingenuity. For more than 100 years diners have played an important role in New Jersey’s history as gathering places for a community.
Diners, serving American comfort food such as egg platters, soup, hamburgers, coffee, salads and desserts, are where generations of memories are formed and renewed. As the saying goes: “A diner is more than just a place to eat, and food is only half the meal.”
The diner “roadmap” actually begins in Providence, RI, in the 1870s, with the advent of horse-drawn lunch wagons, which served simple fare to customers along city streets, mostly during evening hours—the so-called “night lunch business.” The mobile lunch wagon tradition in New Jersey began in Trenton in the mid-1890s and quickly spread to Newark, Elizabeth, Paterson and other towns. Eventually, lunch wagons became stationary eateries and expanded their operations, evolving into diners.
New Jersey is the diner capital of the world for two reasons: it has more diners (around 500) than any other state; and during the 20th century it was the diner manufacturing capital of the world, serving as the home base for diner builders such as O’Mahony, Kullman, Silk City, Fodero, Paramount, Mountain View, Master, Manno, Swingle and others. Unfortunately, these companies are long gone.
The Aug. 5 program is part of the museum’s current exhibition “Order’s Up!” Paterson and the Rise of the New Jersey Diner, which opened July 8 and runs through Sept. 23. Following the presentation, copies of both of Gabriele’s books will be available for purchase and signing. Admission is free, and the public is cordially invited to attend.
Gabriele is the co-curator of the museum’s exhibit. A lifelong Garden State resident, Gabriele is a 1975 graduate of Montclair State University and has worked as an author, journalist, and freelance writer for more than 40 years. He is a member of the executive board of the Nutley Historical Society.
The Paterson Museum, located at the corner of Market and Spruce Streets, is in the heart of the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. For more information about this event, call Heather Garside, the museum’s curator of history, at (973) 321-1260 or visit the website www.patersonmuseum.com.