This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
Those New York waiters, no matter what race or nation they were of, "knew which side their bread was buttered on," as the old saying is, for while tipping goes on quite liberally in this country if it is left to the givers; that is, if Americans are let alone and allowed to give tips as favors to those they like and want to reward, they would hardly yield so much if the waiters were compelled to take on the eager, hungry, anxious look, and had to touch their caps and hold out their hands in order to make wages out of their jobs, because that is not the way of this country, and would make the tip seem like a debt to be paid instead of a favor bestowed, and it would not be very generally submitted to. A little way back there is a quoted paragraph concerning a number of waiters going to the large hotels in Florida, and the same paper says further down: "The salaries for waiters are to be $25 per month, with an addition of $4 on the basis of the premium system. They will probably leave the North in a special car in November".
We all know about how wages run, but it is well enough to let somebody else say it, too. That is first-class wages paid for first-class waiters. The common rate for summer resort waiters averages $18 per month; that is, the range is from $15 to $20. In the generality of hotels between seasons or for all-the-year jobs, waiters are hired as low as $12 per month, or from that to $15. In any of these places the waiter hopes he will make something besides, every waiter expects to make something, yet it is very uncommon for the one who engages them to talk about tips as a part of the bargain, or to make a business of the tip question. Of course, this does not refer to restaurants in the eastern cities which have foreign proprietors and waiters following their own ways, but to the generality of hotels and restaurants all over the states. The probable tips may be thought about, but there Is no sort of promise made to the waiter that he will get any, and no advantage to the proprietor if he does. And still the tips secured by good and lucky waiters amount to something considerable.
Here is a waiter at work who is sure of a steady tip every week: