Scope and arrangement
The collection contains records of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel from the opening of the Waldorf Hotel in 1893 to the closing of the Waldorf-Astoria in 1929. Most of the records cover the period from the 1890s through 1917. Included are guest registers; hotel correspondence; registers of special event bookings, of package deliveries, and of lost and found articles; hotel investigator's logs; floor plans; and examples of the many types of financial records kept by the hotel. While the records are rarely complete for any particular year or department, they do provide a glimpse of the hotel's operations and significant documentation of its patrons.
The bulk of the collection consists of over 400 guest registers which provide a nearly complete daily listing of the hotel's guests from December 1893 through April 1929 (27 volumes are missing). The registers include each guest's signature, city and state of residence, and room number. In general, four registers were maintained on a quarterly basis, thus sixteen register volumes per year. Since guest names are listed in the order of arrival for each day, researchers looking for the names of specific individuals should first consult the name indices. The indices, 1896-1917, list guest names alphabetically for one, two, or three month periods. Guest names can also be searched in the "transient ledgers" section of the financial records.
Room and count books provide summaries of daily guest visits, listing the room, number of adults, children, and servants and the price charged per day. However, no names are given in these volumes.
Correspondence in the collection chiefly concerns "entertainment engagements" or the booking of the hotel's public rooms for private parties, meetings, banquets, receptions, etc. The files of Oscar Tschirky, manager, and Willard H. Barse, assistant manager, 1906-1910, contain letters to and from clients discussing room selection, proposed menus, seating diagrams, custom party favors and decorations, musical or dramatic entertainment, and the attendant prices. There is also some correspondence with vendors and manufacturers. Clients range from ladies' clubs to major corporations. The registers of entertainment engagement can be found in Series IV.
Additional files contain Tschirky's internal hotel correspondence, 1906, consisting of carbon copies of directives to department heads and other staff regarding procedures; and his general correspondence, 1906-1907, which includes letters from vendors, other "hotel men", guests of the hotel, and correspondence concerning his family and his farm in New Paltz, New York. Miscellaneous hotel correspondence for 1909-1910 concerns mostly guest property accidentally left behind at the hotel but also includes inquiries about specific employees and guests, requests for references, and reports of deaths at the hotel.
The collection also includes samples of the many registers used to keep track of guest property. Present are registers, 1893-1918, of "private safe boxes", "valuable packages", and "lost and found" articles. Valuable package registers list the number of packages delivered, the name of the sender, the intended recipient, employee who received it, where it was deposited, the date delivered, and the signature of the recipient. However, not every register contains the same level of detail.
Two investigator's logs, 1902-1905, contain daily notes made by house detectives on suspicious activities, unsavory or disorderly patrons who were escorted from the premises, and reports of lost, found, or stolen property.
Financial records, 1893-1920, contain samples of the various kind of accounts kept by the hotel including general cash books, cashier's accounts from hotel's restaurant and cafés, payroll records, purchase journals, and transient ledgers. Payroll ledgers provide the names of staff members by department, the wages paid, and deductions made for breakage and uniforms. Transient ledgers list guest names, room number, dates of arrival and departure, the room rate, and charges for sundries. Purchase journals document the hotel's expenditures for furnishings, cleaning supplies, repairs, fuel, and stock for the wine cellar and the store room.
Miscellaneous additional records in the collection include an 1893 inventory of furniture, floor plans, and eight scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from the 1920s.
The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel records are arranged in nine series: