Chicago's Ideal Tea-Room and Mrs. Mayme Lee Clinkscale
Since it's Black History Month, I thought it was the perfect time to share a wonderful old image I recently came across in the New York Public Library Digital Collections. This page is from a book titled The Souvenir of Negro Progress, Chicago, 1779-1925. This particular page features the Ideal Tea-Room and says, "A chic and colorful feature of social life in Chicago is 'The Ideal Tea-Room' at 3344 South Michigan Avenue. Whether the occasion is a breakfast-dance, a reception, or a banquet, by sorority, club, or frat, scarcely a day but witnesses some kind of exclusive function. It is the favorite rendezvous of the younger set. Mrs. Mayme Lee Clinkscale, Proprietress." It struck me as pretty amazing—and admirable—that long before the Civil Rights era, Mrs. Clinkscale was proprietress of her own tearoom, and it looks as though it was quite a lovely one, too.
My online searching turned up little else about Mrs. Clinkscale and her tearoom, but when I typed in simply "Clinkscale" on the NYPL Digital Collections site, it turned up this photo from the same book. As you can see at lower right, this Mrs. Mayme Clinkscale (no "Lee") was listed as a milliner at 3641 S. State St. (near the Chicago Public Library today). I think the Mrs. Clinkscale in the photo above looks quite different (and younger) than the Mrs. Clinkscale up top, so I'm intrigued and hope to learn more about the enterprising Chicago woman who was one of the earliest women to operate a tearoom!