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Object Name: Sign from Elaine's Restaurant
Date: 1963
Related People:
Medium: Metal (possibly galvanized steel), plexiglas
Dimensions: Overall: 38 x 98 x 8 1/4 in. (96.5 x 248.9 x 21 cm)
Description: Rectangular sign with interior fluorescent lighting; "Elaine's" in cursive lettering on each side, cut out of sheet of black Plexiglas; yellow plexi backing on one side and white on the other. Mounting pole and chains attached at top.
Credit Line: Gift of the Estate of Elaine Kaufman
Object Number: 2012.5
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This sign hung in front of the iconic Upper East Side restaurant, Elaine's, until its closing in 2011. As Diane Becker, co-executor of the estate of restaurant owner Elaine Kaufman, explained to the New York Times, "the Elaine's sign hung over Second Avenue for nearly 50 years as a beacon welcoming anyone and everyone who wanted to have fun, if only for a night…I want New Yorkers to remember the siren song of Elaine's and all that Elaine and Elaine's gave the city."

In 1963, Elaine Kaufman scraped together $5,000 to buy an Austro-Hungarian bar on Second Avenue and transformed it into one of the most famous night spots in America. The "saloon salon" attracted the likes of Woody Allen (Table 8), Jacqueline Kennedy (Table 10) and William Styron (Table 4). As the Times reported upon its closing, "Elaine's was a place for writers who liked to drink with people who had actually read their books, for actors who liked to drink with writers and for drinkers who liked to drink with writers and actors."

Kaufman died in December 2010 at the age of 81. The restaurant was inherited by restaurant manager Diane Becker, who attempted to keep the restaurant running. By April 2011, Becker had determined that it was no longer a viable business, and the doors were shut on May 26.