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New Yorkers ate 100,000,000 Last Year

That was the headline from The New York Times on May 5, 1907. The figures are based on the assun1ption
that out of the 1,5OO,OOO bushels of oysters brought to the New York market 2/3's were shipped out of town.

Describing oyster consumption in New York City, Ingersoll wrote: "Oysters pickled, stewed, baked, roasted, fried, and scalloped; oysters made into soups, patties, and puddings; oysters with condiments and without condiments; oysters for breakfast, dinner, supper; oysters without stint or limit, fresh as the pure air, and almost as abundant, are daily offered to the palates of the Manhattanese, and appreciated with all the gratitude which such a bounty of nature ought to inspire."

Oysters were also commonly served separately in stews with cream, fried in heavy batter, and baked in rich sauces in many types of dishes, and with fish, lobsters, crabs, clams, and crayfish. Eating establishments along the Gulf of Mexico have long served a sandwich with 6 or 12 oysters termed a "po boy".

By the early 1900's, New Yorkers were still consuming 500,000 bushels of oysters/season, or an average of two meals of oysters per person per week in the greater city. An estimated annual per capita consumption was 660 oysters in New York City, 60 oysters in London, and 26 oysters in Paris. In the early 1900's, a bowl of oyster stew cost $0.30 . In that period, a typical family of 5 or 6 had an income of $12-15/week . In 1919, an oyster stew cost $0.35, and fried oysters were $0.40/half dozen and $0.75/dozen in Washington, D.C.

In the 1870's, the 1 million people of Philadelphia and its suburbs were consuming an average of 6 oysters/week, or 12/week during the oyster marketing season. Some 2,419 Philadelphia establishments (hotels, oyster houses, restaurants, and beer saloons) served oysters, besides 158 peddlers and curb-stone stands. Even as late as the 1920's, most every small eating place in Philadelphia displayed a sign "Oysters" in its window.

The oyster reefs in New York were being depleted, consumption was growing by 10% annually and their oyster fleet moved south into the Chesapeake Bay.

See the oysters history for details on the amount of oysters harvest from the Bay.

 

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