The Culinary Career of Sam Fraunces Part 1
A collaborative series by Dr. Fred Opie and Andrew Clarke
During the Great Depression US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) launched His Works Progress Administration (WPA) as one of his many New Deal Policies promising North Americans a way of out the Great Depression. WPA officials at the state level hired workers and scholars to travel throughout the country collecting stories and documenting local traditions including food traditions. A WPA administrator interested in food decided to publish a collection called America Eats. Here's the first in a series on New York City culinary entrepreneurs. Central questions that guides what follows are who were the entrepreneurs and what made their businesses profitable? I found these stories archived in the US Library of Congress WPA records titled “History of Negro Restaurants.” The author did not sign his or her name to the stories.
Originally from the British colonial Caribbean, Sam Fraunces (1722-1795) made a name as the owner and operator of several successful taverns in New York City. He ran Free Mason’s Arms, on Broadway from 1759 to 1762 that later became the headquarters for the Sons of Liberty, the organization founded by Sam Adams and John Hancock designed to protect the rights of colonists against British oppression prior to the American Revolution. He later purchased DeLancey Mansion which he opened as Fraunces’ Tavern. The tavern gained notoriety for its outstanding hospitality and its wine collection. The menu consisted of an assortment of meats such as beef steak and pork chops, as well as veal. Oysters were also a favorite dish among Fraunces’ customers. After enjoying a hot dinner at the tavern, customers would often order a dessert as their last course.