Sunday, May 10, 2015


San Francisco, 

Interfoliata is the technical term for items that are found between the pages of rare books. These unexpected discoveries often add a fascinating dimension to the volume, telling us something about its history. Such is the case for this reservation book from Bergez-Frank’s Old Poodle Dog in 1908, the year it reopened in San Francisco after the Great Earthquake and Fire. Interesting in its own right, the book contains eighteen pieces of paper randomly scattered between its pages, revealing small details about the operation of this restaurant and its clientele. 

The Old Poodle Dog was owned by a group of French chefs and restaurateurs who banded together after the disaster. The new five-story building on Bush Street was a grand establishment, featuring twenty-one private dining rooms on the floors above the main restaurant. And while it was one of the most luxurious places to dine in the city, the reservations were recorded in a standard calendar diary. Opening the book over a hundred years later, one of the first things you see is a business card still pinned to the front page, one of several it contains that presumably came from patrons.

The earliest reservations are entered for Thursday, June 18, seemingly the day that the restaurant opened. A party of five from the Mission High School requested a room with a piano. Unlike today’s high-end restaurants, the Old Poodle Dog was patronized by a broad cross-section of society and played an integral role in the city’s social life. 

The scarcest ephemera in the book are the forms used for kitchen orders, and the smaller versions for wine cellar orders. One seldom comes across this type of restaurant ephemera because there was little reason to save them. These “improbable survivors” may have inadvertently slipped between the pages when the book was in use, or sometime later, perhaps when the business records were thrown into boxes for storage. 

Some of the interfoliata was definitely inserted at a later date. One of the customer bills shown below is dated May 7, 1909, over four months after the book had outlived its usefulness.

Although the restaurant was very popular, many of the pages contain only a few names, suggesting that people normally did not make advance reservations. The holidays were a different matter. Independence Day, Bastille Day (July 14) and Thanksgiving were big events at the Old Poodle Dog. The reservations shown below for Christmas and New Years Eve are so densely jammed into the allotted space as to make them practically unintelligible.

The holiday reservations visually express the clamor of a crowded restaurant. Indeed, the book has a dynamic quality which is intensified by the ephemera it contains. Almost like a conceptual work of art, it conveys the spirit of a vibrant period in the social history of San Francisco.


H.D. Miller said...

This is a fun find, and if you're so inclined a few minutes of web searching and you can come up with something like this..

A San Francisco city directory from 1910, with a listing for Lewis H. Levy, salesman for L. Dinkelspiel company. He's living at 611 Octavia Street.

Jump to Google Maps street view and you can see a row of low older houses. Go to Zillow and you can see that the house was built in 1900, the house of Louis H. Levy, diner at the Poodle Dog in 1908, still stands.

Jeanne Schinto said...

Oh, this is good! So much packed into one ephemeral item.... I think I can remember when you bought this...