1906 Thompson Restaurants Slug - When Territorial Slugs cost $300.00
I'm a fan of imitation territorial slugs and have long been interested in the Thompson Restaurants slug. I was lucky enough to pick up this MS65 specimen recently. The surfaces are on this are amazing in hand. There are some minor distractions on the obverse but they are easy to overlook when looking at how well it's otherwise preserved. I'm amazed by how bright it is and how sharp the letters are. This is the 2nd best specimen I've run across so far.
I like the reference to territorial slugs going for $300 at the time. Today, the best specimen of this slug has sold for more than that. I bet the people at the time never thought that would happen.
Anyone know who struck this?
Reading the history on this chain is fascinating. The original restaurant was the first restaurant in Chicago and the 50 year anniversary slug was created by one of the 3 largest restaurant chains in the US by the mid-1920s.
The January 7, 1922 issue of Chicago Commerce mentions that in John R. Thompson had just published a booklet on the restaurant history in Chicago mentioning the following, quoting Moses and Kirkland's history of early Chicago. ( https://books.google.com/books?id=KzsP8Y6VqO8C&pg=RA15-PA18 )
S. H. Thompson started the first restaurant in Chicago in 1856 on Lake Street. After the fire in 1871 he opened at 666 Wabash avenue. Later he moved to 147-33 Dearborn Street.
The famous Thompson Restaurants of the early 1900s is the chain created by John R. Thompson in 1891, also publisher of the guide that mentions S. H. Thompson's 1856 restaurant above. I assume John R. and S.H. Thompson are related as they were both restaurateurs in Chicago but it would be nice to find out definitively. ( https://restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com/2010/06/10/early-chains-john-r-thompson/ )
Although it is largely forgotten today, the Chicago-based John R. Thompson company was one of the largest “one arm” lunchroom chains of the early 20th century. We so strongly associate fast food chains with hamburgers that it may be surprising to learn that Thompson’s popular sandwiches included Cervelat, smoked boiled tongue, cold boiled ham, hot frankfurter, cold corned beef, cold salmon, and Herkimer County cheese, served on “Milwaukee Rye Bread” baked by the chain’s bakery. Thompson was proud that his meals were suited for sedentary office workers of the 1900s and 1910s. A 1911 advertisement claimed that lunch at Thompson’s “won’t leave you logy and lazy and dull this afternoon.”
Thompson, an Illinois farm boy, ran a rural general store as his first business. He sold it in 1891, moved to Chicago, and opened a restaurant on State Street. He proved to be a modernizer in the restaurant business as well as in politics.
He operated his restaurants on a “scientific” basis, stressing cleanliness, nutrition, and quality while keeping prices low. In 1912 he moved the chain’s commissary into a premier new building on North Clark Street (pictured, today). Thompson’s, then with 68 self-service lunchrooms plus a chain of grocery stores, became a public corporation in 1914, after which it expanded outside Chicago and into Canada. By 1921 there were 109 restaurants, 49 of which were in Chicago and 11 in New York (with a commissary in NYC). By the mid-1920s Thompson’s, Childs, and Waldorf Lunch were the big three U.S. chains, small by comparison to McDonald’s but significant nevertheless.
Here's the Chicago Commerce article from January 7, 1922:
Here's an early photo of the restaurant and an image of their corned beef from the John R. Thompson article: