Treasure Trove of Pump Room Celebrities Goes On Auction

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Booth One with Pump Room owner Ernie Byfield and Mrs. Byfield, 1949.
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Booth One with Pump Room owner Ernie Byfield and Mrs. Byfield, 1949.Photo: by Fred Krueger; courtesy Bonnie King, Auction Masters

You know that thing where in the old days celebrities would be dining at a famous place like Sardi’s or The Pump Room or Musso and Frank, seated in a half-moon booth where they could see and be seen, and a photographer would come up and snap them at their table? Like a lot of our pictures of the glamorous past, you may wonder— did that really happen, or did it just happen in the movies? Well, bestill those doubts; a collection of exactly those kinds of photos, taken at The Pump Room in its late-40s heyday under its creator Ernie Byfield and featuring many of the biggest stars of the time, has gone up for auction— after being found in Oregon.

The 8 x10 black and white photographs were taken by Fred Krueger, who spent most of his life working the freelance photography beat in Chicago. These particular photos all come from the late 1940s, and it appears that a relative on the west coast got hold of just this one chunk of Pump Room history and pasted 100+ of them into a scrapbook. The collection includes almost every celebrity you can think of from the era, usually crowding into the Pump Room’s legendary Booth One, from Bogart and Bacall to Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, Errol Flynn, Judy Garland, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Shirley Temple (by the time she was old enough to drink) and many more. (No Phil Collins, though, jacket or not.) They’re all original prints, often marked with the name of the publication they were intended for, ranging from the Chicago Tribune to fan magazines like Photoplay. See a slideshow of more of the images here; there’s no estimate on what the photos might go for, but if you’re interested, contact Auction Masters at 503-434-1894.