Samuel Longley Bickford (1885-1959) founded Bickford's Lunch System in New York in 1922. This consisted of a chain of lunchrooms (mostly cafeterias) that offered fast service and inexpensive food. The last Bickford's in New York closed in 1982.
The Bickford's on 8th Ave. between 34th and 35th Sts. opened in 1929. The building is a 3-story brick structure designed by Stuckert & Co. in Bickford's typical art deco style.
The founder of Bickford's was the son of Francis E. Bickford (1850-?), a clergyman born in Maine. Samuel L. Bickford appears (twice!) in the U. S. Census of 1900, living in Newfane, Windham county, Vermont. He appears there both as the son of Francis and Elizabeth Bickford and as a boarder in the home of Samual Morse, a farmer. His year of birth is given in one instance as July 1885 and in the other as July 1886. 1885 seems to be the generally accepted year.
In 1910 Bickford was the proprietor of a lunchroom in Washington D. C. In 1918 he registered for the World War I draft while employed as a general manager, Kelsey Co., Boston, Mass. In 1920 he lived in Brookline, Mass. in the home of Joseph F. Heald, the proprietor of a food market. Bickford's own occupation is left blank. In 1930 Bickford (now president of Bickford's) lived in the borough of Queens, New York, with his wife, Mary, and son, Harold E. Bickford.
Tons of information on Bickford's can be found at www.plazaview.com. The site includes a photo of the ground floor entrance to 488 8th Ave. ca. 1941-42.
There is also a bickfords.com, website of the successor corporation to the Bickford's chain in New England.
The New York Public Library Digital Collections has a beautiful photograph by the Wurts Brothers of a Bickfords on W. 50th St. This is dated 1933.
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