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 March 18, 2007
Poor Boy Sandwich (Po’ Boy Sandwich)

The “poor boy” ("po’ boy") sandwich began in New Orleans, about 1929. It’s another regional sandwich name, such as sub (submarine), hero, hoagie, and grinder.  The “poor boy sandwich” quickly reached Texas in the early 1930s.

There is no “Texas Po’ Boy,” although at least two restaurants serve sandwiches by that name.

The long list of the names of sandwiches served on long rolls includes blimpie, bomber, Cuban (medianoche), Dagwood, garibaldi, gondola, grinder, hero, hoagie, Italian, jawbreaker, muffuletta, peacemaker (La Mediatrice), pilgrim, pistolette, rocket, skyscraper, spiedie, spucky (spuckie, spukie), submarine (sub), torpedo, torta (Mexican po’ boy), wedge and zeppelin (zep).


Branding Iron BBQ (W. Long Branch, NJ)
Texas “Po’ Boy”
both beef brisked & sausage: a serious sandwich!

Lone Star Texas Grill (Toronto)
TEXAS PO’ BOY SANDWICH 9.99
A choice of Fajita steak or chicken, topped with grilled onions, bell peppers and Jack cheese.TEXAS PO’ BOY SANDWICH 9.99
A choice of Fajita Steak or chicken, topped with grilled onions, bell peppers and Jack cheese.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
poor boy, n.
orig. and chiefly U.S.
More fully poor boy sandwich. A kind of large sandwich; = PO’ BOY n.
1931 Soard’s New Orleans City Directory 1139/2 Poor Boy Sandwich Shop (Mrs Amelia Weidenbacher) 605 Dyades.
1938 Frederick (Maryland) Post 25 Aug. 4/4 A ‘poor boy’ is a sandwich but what a sandwich. It’s a whole loaf of bread halved lengthwise and piled with roast beef, lettuce and tomatoes. Costs a nickel.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
po’ boy, n.
U.S.
More fully po’ boy sandwich. A type of sandwich, originating in New Orleans, consisting of a hollowed-out French loaf variously filled with oysters, prawns, meat and gravy, etc. Cf. POOR BOY n.
1932 New Orleans Classified Telephone Directory 108/2 Po Boi Sandwich Shoppe Inc.
1951 N.Y. Herald Tribune 4 July 7/8 The beginning of the Po’ Boy sandwich we credited to a sandwich shop in New Orleans.

9 May 1925, New Orleans (LA) States, “Meat Markets,” pg. 11, col. 6 ad:
Veal Shoulders
Per Pound 12c
Poor Boy Specials
All Per Pound 10c
Bienville Markets
301 Royal St.
8139 Oak St.
8111 Jeannette Street

28 April 1929, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), pg. 10, col. 2 ad:
FREE SANDWICHES
On the Opening of Our New Sonny Boy Sandwich Stand. To Introduce Our New
SONNY BOY TOASTED SANDWICH
Nothing Like It Ever Offered in New Orleans Before
Temptingly Delicious
(...)
MAMMOTH RESTAURANT

19 August 1930, New Orleans (LA) Item, pg. 13, col. 1:
Arrest Boy, 16, On
River Front With
Loot From Restaurant

Paraphrase the old wow about “set a thief to catch a thief” and you might well say “set a poor boy to catch a poor boy”—particularly if you glanced over the record of the New Orleans police force for Monday night.

Two of the department’s best known Roberts—Hackney and Smith—collared a luckless youth out on the river front. He gave his name as Alfred Forte, his age as 16, and his address as 48th street, Brooklyn. He described himself as a poor boy, and he had a brief case in which were sandwiches, a number of pies and a carton of cigarettes. He admitted these were stolen, but refused to say whence.

Investigation, however, disclosed that they had been taken from the Poor Boy restaurant at 200 Canal street.

14 October 1930, New Orleans (LA) Item, “Down the Spillway” by William Wiegand, pg. 1, col. 2:
Those “poor boy” sandwiches at Saratoga street Mike’s.

26 October 1930, The Item-Tribune (New Orleans, LA), pg. 6, col. 7 ad:
WHERE THE
“Poor Boy’s Sandwich”
ORIGINATED!
FRENCH MARKET
COFFEE STAND
A BATTISTELLA, Prop.
Ursuline and N. Peters Sts.

28 November 1930, New Orleans (LA) Item, “Down the Spillway” by William Wiegand, pg. 1, col. 2:
One of the latest Vieux Carre practices is inviting uptown guests to consume poor boy sandwiches near the French market.

12 December 1930, New Orleans (LA) Item, pg. 10, col. 1 ad:
REBOUL’S
Bourbon and Ursuline Sts.
SONNY BOY SANDWICH...10c
Filled With Roast Beef
Dipped in Creole Gravy
A Meal in Itself

1 January 1931, New Orleans (LA) Item, pg. 27, col. 6 ad:
New Year’s Greetings
To All
FRENCH MARKET
Coffee and Lunch Stand
A. BATTISTELLA, Prop.
Originagtor of the
“Poor Boy’s Sandwich”
Lower (River) End of Fish Market
Ursuline and N, Peters Sts.
Auto Service MAin 1407

10 April 1931, Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, “Boys Go To New Orleans...,” pg. 29, col. 3:
“We bought poor-boy sandwiches for a dime and got two meals from each sandwich,” they said. Charity organizations sell these sandwiches, which consist of a loaf of bread split lengthway and a slice of beef, pork or ham inserted, for the benefit of the poor and unemployed of the city.

24 April 1931, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, pg. 29 classified ad:
BOY, 18 to 20, for restaurant work. Must be willing. Tony’s Poor Boy Sandwiches, 1131 St. Bernard Ave.

15 May 1931, The Daily Herald (Biloxi, MS), pg. 2, col. 2:
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Sandwich Shop. 503 West Howard. Management C. B. Klein. Half-loaf Poor-Boy sandwiches of ham, cheese, roast pork or beef, 10c.

18 July 1931, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, pg, 23, col. 1 classified ad:
HAMBURGER, Poor Boy Sandwich Stand for sale on account of illness. 1641 Thalla St. Mrs. E. Munch.

12 November 1931, New Orleans (LA) Times-Picayune, pg. 11:
Members will eat “poor boy” sandwiches instead of their usual luncheons.

21 January 1932, Port Arthur (TX) News, pg. 10, col. 8 ad:
LE BLANC’S CAFE
POOR-BOY SANDWICHES 10c & 15c

14 March 1932, The Item-Tribune (New Orleans, LA), pg. 16, col. 4 classified ad:
PARKWAY BAKERY po-boy sandwich stand. 538 N. Hagan avenue. AU 9375.

9 April 1933, Boston (MA) Sunday Globe, “Bums His Way Through 27 States But Comes Home to Wait for Job” by The Wanderer, pg. 20, col. 4:
In New Orleans you get four dozen of bananas for 15 cents. They have what they call “poor boy sandwiches.” They chop up half a loaf of French bread and put beef between the slices, all for a dime.

17 July 1933, Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), pg. 4, col. 2:
Poor Boy Sandwich shop, 1922 North Broadway;...

2 June 1934, Austin (TX) American, pg. 5, col. 4 ad:
SPECIAL TODAY ONLY
POOR-BOY SANDWICH
10c
(IT’S A MEAL)
FRIENDLY CAFE
505 CONGRESS

1 July 1934, Port Arthur (TX) News, pg. 8, col.2:
HERE’S DIME MENU
FOR NEW ORLEANS
NEW ORLEANS, June 30 (UP).—A man with a dime in New Orleans will not go hungry.

Here’s what he can buy:

Two eggs, two strips of bacon, grits, buttered toast and coffee. Or --

Wheat cakes, butter, sausage or bacon, coffee.

Then, there’s the poor boy sandwich, which sells in some places for five cents. It is composed of a half-loaf of French bread, sliced down the middle, about a foot and a quarter of bread, and garnished with ham, cheese, pickle, tomatoes and lettuce.

2 March 1937, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, “The Gumbo Series, Chapter Four” by Helen Worth, pg. 14, cols. 7-8:
Then let’s talk of food, a subject that one can never forget long while in New Orleans. “Have you eaten a Poor-Boy?” asked my “second cousin once removed” (or third cousin).
(...)
And so to Martin’s we went: to learn at first hand the meaning of the “Po-Boy Sandwiches” signs that one sees everywhere. At one time a keeper of a coffee stand in the French market, Martin out of the kindness of his heart would feed a negro boy who came often, pleading great hunger. “A sandwich for a po boy, mistah, please.”

Today that charity has brought rich returns, for every one knows the Po-Boy. They are made from French bread; a loaf that is actually two and one-half feet long is cut into thirds—then filled with ham—cheese—fried oysters—what you will; a meal for 15 cents. Or one may order “a five cent short with ten cent filling.”

24 August 1938, The Daily News (Frederick, MD), “Man About Manhattan” by George Tucker, pg. 4, col. 8:
Then there is the matter of the “poor boy.” A “poor boy” is a sandwich—but what a sandwich. It’s a whole loaf of bread halved lengthwise and piled with roast beef, lettuce and tomatoes. Costs a nickel.

NOLA.com
The messy history of the po-boy
Updated on September 4, 2016 at 9:00 AM Posted on September 4, 2016 at 7:00 AM
BY JAMES KARST, NOLA.COM
The Times-Picayune
History has it that the po-boy was invented by the Martin brothers, Benny and Clovis, to feed striking streetcar drivers in New Orleans in 1929.

According to an account on the website of the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, Benny Martin once said: “We fed those men free of charge until the strike ended. Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’”

It is true that the Martin brothers wrote a letter, addressed to the striking drivers and printed in at least one local newspaper, in which they promised to feed the men. “Our meal is free to any members of Division I94,” they wrote, omitting any description of what that meal might be. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Sunday, March 18, 2007 • Permalink