A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 26, 2007
Club Sandwich (Club House Sandwich; Clubhouse Sandwich)

The origin of the “club sandwich” is still unknown. Does it come from a particular club? The sandwich was also called a “club house sandwich” or “clubhouse sandwich.”

A popular “club sandwich” origination claim is made (see the 1983 citation below) for Richard Canfield’s Saratoga Club in Saratoga, New York, about the year 1894. However, there are no historical citations to back up this claim, and there are “club sandwich” citations from before the Saratoga Club opened. The Pennsylvania Club of Long Branch, New Jersey also once claimed to have originated the “club sandwich,” but there are no historical citations to back up this claim, either.

It is likely that the “club sandwich” originated in the “club cars” of trains, specifically the trains leaving Pennsylvania Station in New York City for Philadelphia and/or Chicago. Early train menus from the 1890s appear to contain the “club sandwich.”

The “club sandwich” further entered popular culture in the late twentieth century with terms and phrases such as the “club sandwich generation” and “Club Sandwiches, Not Seals.”

Wikipedia: Club sandwich
A club sandwich, also called a clubhouse sandwich, is a type of sandwich most frequently served as a double-decker, requiring three (rather than two) slices of bread. It is generally cut into quarters, and often held together by frilly or plain toothpicks. French fries (also called chips in the UK and elsewhere), chips (also called crisps in the UK and elsewhere), coleslaw or even potato salad may be placed in the center or on the side of the sandwich triangles. The traditional club ingredients are turkey, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Cheese and/or mayonnaise are also common additions. The sandwich is usually served on toasted bread, but untoasted bread can be used, as well, depending on customer and restaurant preference. Ham is sometimes substituted for bacon, and chicken sometimes for turkey. A pickle and/or garnish such as parsley are often added to the platter. 

Word Spy
club-sandwich generation n. People who provide care for their parents, children, and grandchildren.

Example Citation:
Dan English, Kootenai County clerk, spoke from experience when he said, ‘’There is a real need for such a support group. Lots of people in our age range can use that kind of help. We talk a lot about the sandwich generation, but there are a lot of us in what I call the triple-decker or club-sandwich generation.” These are folks dealing not only with aging parents, but also helping to raise their grandchildren, the fourth generation of their family.
—Larry Belmont, “Grandparents raising grandkids may need help,” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), September 14, 2002

Earliest Citation:
Studies have revealed that women, especially daughters and daughters-in-law, make up 85% of people who are taking care of an elderly relative. American women average 17 years caring for children and can expect to devote 18 years to taking care of an elderly parent. Furthermore, nearly 40% of such women do so while maintaining a full-time job.

The “sandwich generation” of middle-aged family members who have responsibility for children and aging parents is changing. Due to increased longevity, middle-aged children today are the first to be living in an age where a four- or five-generation family is becoming commonplace. More frequently, adult children in their 50s and 60s who are hoping to retire and enjoy long-anticipated freedom find themselves caught in what Radding describes as a “club sandwich generation,” with responsibility for very old parents of their own.
—Robyn Loewenthal, “Seniors: prepare to care,” Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1991

As the example citation suggests, today’s phrase is based on the sandwich generation — people caring for both their parents and their children. The American Association of Retired Persons estimates that 11% of grandparents who are over 50 are helping to raise their grandchildren. Since many of those grandparents also have children and elderly parents to care for, their metaphorical sandwich has an extra layer of bread, making it a club sandwich. You can also call it the triple-decker generation (1998). 
Posted on January 13, 2003 at 11:51 AM

(New-York Historical Society menu collection)
KINSLEY’S (Chicago?), menu 1889-1B (This date is possibly incorrect.—ed.)

(New-York Historical Society menu collection)
STILLSON’S (NY), 1890 (No NYHS number. This date is possibly incorrect.—ed.)
Sandwiches—Club House

(New-York Historical Society menu collection)
LEHIGH VALLEY RAILROAD AND CONNECTIONS (PA), menu 1890-14D (This date is possibly incorrect.—ed.)
Club Sandwich, Double 50 cents, single 30 cents

18 May 1893, Woodland (CA) Daily Democrat, pg. ?:
...of Cosmos Club salad, Bohemian Club sandwiches, chicken sandwiches…

27 December 1894, Bucks County Gazette (Bristol, PA), pg. 2, col. 3:
Club Sandwiches.—These are very tasty for after-theatre suppers, and are made of very thin white bread and butter, with the cold white meat of chicken, salted and peppered and laid on a leaf of lettuce, between the bread. Again, chopped green peppers or capers may be sprinkled over the chicken when the lettuce is omitted.

Chronicling America
16 April 1895, New York (NY) Sun, “A Girl’s Bachelor Supper,” pg. 7, col. 5: 
The revels extended far into the night, and it was whispered that some stunning Easter gowns and hats failed to appear on Easter Day because of their owners unwise, indulgence in ginger-ale, buttermilk and sarsaparilla and lobster salad, club sandwiches, stuffed eggs, olives, cages, and bon-bons.

(New York Public Library menu collection)
9 April 1896, The Waldorf (NY, NY), Supper menu:
Club (sandwiches)
Waldorf (salads)

(New-York Historical Society menu collection)
THE WINDSOR (NY), 1 October 1896, menu 1896-11A
Club Sandwiches
(The NYPL menu collection also has this menu.—ed.)

29 December 1896, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 4:
Now, all that is necessary is to furnish club sandwiches and oil stoves, and the talent that goes to Barkesdale can set up room keeping; and at the association’s expense. 

(New-York Historical Society menu collection)
Club Sandwiches
(The NYPL menu collection also has this menu.—ed.)

(New York Public Library menu collection)
7 April 1897, The Jefferson, Richmond, VA:
Club Sandwich

25 April 1897, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, pg. 20:
Club House Sandwich.
Club house sandwich is prepared by putting a lettuce leaf on a thin piece of buttered bread, a thin slice of tongue, ham or turkey on top the lettuce leaf, then a poached egg, then a thin slice of ham, a lettuce leaf and last a thin piece of buttered bread.

26 April 1897, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. ?:
...refreshments could not be served with club sandwiches.

August 1897, Good Housekeeping, pg. 87, col. 1:
Butter two slices of bread; on one place a thin slice of chicken, broil a thin piece of raw ham, and, while hot, place it on the other piece of bread, dip a leaf of lettuce in a small quantity of salad dressing, place it between the meats, making a sandwich; trim and serve as quickly as possible.

6 April 1898, New York (NY) Journal, pg. 10:
Does your little one go to school and take a lunch? if so, prepare a club sandwich for the luncheon basket. Cut the bread in thin slices, toast and butter. Slice the white meat from a roast chicken, salt, pepper, and add a dash of mustard to suit taste. Put between the layers of chicken a slice of broiled breakfast bacon, not too well done. Lay next to toast two pieces of crisp lettuce, and you have the most palatable as well as healthful thing in the way of sandwiches.

1 September 1899, Minneapolis (MN) Journal, pg. 10:
Club sandwiches should be made of thinly-sliced stale bread, bacon, cold roast chicken and salad dressing. In all cases remove the crust of the bread. The bacon should first be broiled and then laid on a rack in a pan, this being placed in an oven, so that in this way all fat is extracted from the bacon and drops into the pan. The bacon becomes crisp and the slices remain flat for spreading between the slices of bread, on which, it is said, no butter is used. Dark chicken is better for sandwiches than the lighter parts of the fowl, and the meat is better roasted than boiled. This work must be done early enough to have the chicken and bacon perfectly cold before it is used. The chicken and bacon, the edges of the latter being carefully trimmed, are placed between the slices of bread with enough mayonnaise dressing to moisten it all, and this dressing should be added just before the sandwiches are needed, because, by standing long, the mayonnaise will liquefy and become absorbed by the bread.

26 January 1900, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 7:
The following recipes were demonstrated by Mrs. Rorer:
CLUB SANDWICH.—Take a whole wheat loaf, butter and slice, and put slice in lettuce leaves, which have been wiped dry. If you use chicken or turkey, cover bread with thin slices of same; next with a thin layer of pickled cucumber, more turkey, then another slice of bread. Cut off the crust, and cut diagonally into two pieces. Cover with lettuce leaf. If beef or mutton is used instead of turkey, use one layer of beef and one of tomatoes. The sandwich may be served with mayonnaise or Bearnaise.

5 August 1900, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, “Club Sandwich Rivals Hash,” pg. 33:
An Atlantic City Hotel serves a club sandwich that is composed of broiled ham, cold chicken, lettuce and mayonnaise dressing between thin toast.

This is one of the newest evolutions of a dish that promises to rival hash as a general mixing up of foods.

The club sandwich began mildly as a sandwich of cold chicken and lettuce; then warm broiled bacon was added, which in turn gave way to ham.

The addition of mayonnaise dressing with broiled ham seems rather startling, but under the mysterious influence of the toast, presumably, it has obtained a reputation among the hotel’s patrons.
--New York Sun.

21 November 1900, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 10:
How to Make Club Sandwiches.
From the Pittsburg Dispatch.
Cut bread a day old into thin triangles. Spread lightly with butter, then with caviare. have ready a mixture of finely minced chicken, turkey or duck and stoned olives chopped fine, seasoned with salt, paprica, celery salt and a few drops of kitchen bouquet. Put a layer between the prepared sides of the sandwich, press firmly together and set in a cool place until needed.

8 January 1901, Decatur (IL) Morning Herald, pg. 2, col. 1 ad:
Club House Sandwich...25c

What’s What?
At Home and Abroad
by F. Sturgis Allen
New York: The Bradley-White Co.
Pg. 29 (Bill of Fare Vocabulary):
club sandwich. A sandwich of toast, chicken, lettuce, bacon, or ham. Some use turkey instead of chicken.

26 April 1906, Piqua (OH) Daily Call, pg. 7, col. 2:
Clubhouse sandwiches

21 November 1910, Waterloo (Iowa) Reporter, pg. 10, col. 6:
The First Club Sandwich.
A New York lawyer claims to have discovered the first club sandwich, which is now the popular tasty of every tea room. He found it down in New Mexico ten years ago. He stopped at a small town and not being on the train with a dining car, went into the little eating place and ordered a dozen sandwiches, half of which were to be ham and half tongue. After he had boarded the train and opened the package, he found the order carried out to the letter. Every sandwich had a filling of one slice of ham and one slice of tongue. But the inventor of these sandwiches was not so far out of the way.

9 March 1983, New York Times, Q&A (Craig Claiborne), pg. C4:
When I offered my version of a club sandwich recently and stated mu ignorance as to the origin of the name, I received a letter from James Villas, a colleague who is food writer and restaurant critic for Town and Country Magazine. He is also author of “American Taste” (Arbor House, 1982).

“In that I consider this sandwich one of the most luscious of American creations, I can’t resist commenting,” he wrote. “I agree with James Beard, who has noted that the original was not a triple-decker, as indicated in my own version.

“Second, a genuine club sandwich must be made only with chicken, never turkey. Third, I’m convinced the name stems not from a bar or restaurant or country club but from the elegant old club cars on the steamliner trains. Lucius Beebe once agreed with me about the great clubs on the Twentieth Century—two-deckers, mind you. And I distinctly remember always ordering a club on the Crescent Limited back in the 40’s and 50’s. I could eat a club for lunch every single day.”

Andre Hurtubise of Quebec referred to a book titled “New York, a Guide to the Empire State” (8th printing, 1962, Oxford University Press). “In a discourse on Saratoga Springs,” he noted, “the book states, ‘In 1894 Richard Canfield (1865-1914), debonair patron of art, purchased the Saratoga Club to make it a casino. Canfield Solitaire was originated in the casino’s gambling rooms and the club sandwich in its kitchens.’”

Several readers wrote to tell me that they had read one authority who stated that the sandwich was widely popular in the 1920’s and that it was of such a fancy nature it was associated with country clubs. I find that too pat and speculative. 

Google Books
Other Women
by Lisa Alther
New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf
Pg. 133:
She shifted her gaze out the window to the “Club Sandwiches, Not Seals” sticker on Caroline’s bumper.

Google Books
Seal Wars
by Janice Scott Henke
Pg. 96:
The HSUS slogan, “Club Sandwiches, Not Seals,” absurd as it is, adorns sweatshirts of followers such as Vermont Congressman Jim Jeffords,...

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (1) Comments • Wednesday, September 26, 2007 • Permalink

The 1991 Los Angeles Times article referencing The Sandwich Generation was ahead of the curve.  Today, with the groundswell of Baby Boomers hitting its stride, there are many variations of the term - with parents living longer and children needing guidance through an extended adolescence.  Many midlifers, wanting to cut back on work, are faced with the challenges, and financial resposibilities, of kidults boomeranging back home or divorced children moving back in with their own children.  Some are calling it the Panini Generation, feeling squished down and oozing out the sides.

Posted by Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.  on  09/27  at  11:07 AM

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