Skip to Main Content

Hospitality Industry: Restaurants, Hotels, & Lodging Resource Guide


National Photo Company. Lotus Restaurant, [Wash., D.C.]. [between 1909 and 1940] Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The resources in this section are concerned with the history of hotels and restaurants as well as issues and practices in managing both that developed over time. While this guide does not cover the history of specific restaurants or hotels, we have included a few titles that do look at some particular companies as a window into the overall industry and because they played a large part in the history of the hospitality industry. It might also be helpful to research a few of the noted people. This is particularly true in the hotel industry with names like Ellsworth Statler and Conrad Hilton.

There is a long history of travel lodging and serving of food outside of the home, but the resources in this section start primarily with the 19th century as these businesses became more established and there was an increasing desire to understand what others in the industry were doing. Many resources looking at the industry don't appear until later part of the 19th century making detailed and comprehensive research before that time more difficult. But there was growth. Looking specifically at restaurants, J. O. Dahl, a noted restaurant specialist and editor of Hotel World Review wrote in 1935:

Twenty-five years ago there were generally two types of restaurants - the hash house and the deluxe dining room. Today there are a dozen types, for all classes and purses. Even in the worst days of the depression restaurants were increasing in number and quality. Today the business is one of the fastest growing of all industries.1

This is where it should be noted that much of the literature that does look at food as a business can also include coverage of catering, hotels, and even stewards who were often responsible for institutional food buying. The connection between catering and restaurants is obvious, but when it comes to hotels there is overlap primarily because restaurants increasingly offered food service either through an in-house restaurant or through room service. In his pamphlet The Efficient Waitress published in 1933 J.O. Dahl wrote:

Soon these restaurants took so much business away from hotels, that they were compelled to put in similar dining rooms. Today, the great majority of successful metropolitan hotels have one or more dining rooms in which waitresses handle all the service.2

One last thing to mention is that Ahrens Publishing Company was, for a period, the publisher for the industry and J.O. Dahl was long affiliated with the company. If you are looking to expand your research you may want to look for publications published by them that are not included in this guide.

Internet Resources

Below are links for those wanting archival collections for the hospitality industry.

Print Resources

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.


  1. J. O. Dahl, National Handbook of Restaurant Data, (Stamford, Conn., J. O. Dahl, 1935) 2. Back to text
  2. J. O. Dahl, The Efficient Waitress, (Stamford, Conn., J.O. Dahl, 1933) 2. Back to text