Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Tableau

Helena, 
1897


The Grandon Hotel selected card stock with this melodramatic scene on the cover for its Thanksgiving menu in 1897.1 The staged photograph, which shows a well-dressed couple bringing a basket of food to a poor wretch, foreshadowed the imminent arrival of the silent movie.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harvard vs. Yale

Boston
1909, 1913 & 1927

The “deafening drone of vuvuzelas” won’t be heard at the 127th football game between Harvard and Yale this weekend. According to Bloomberg News, Harvard banned the plastic horns to avoid disturbing the players, marching band, and fans. The news report brought to mind writer Elbert Hubbard’s observation that football is “a sport that bears the same relation to education that bullfighting does to agriculture.” Indeed, the customs and traditions surrounding football have always been a reflection of popular culture, not higher education. Five menus from dinners in Boston after the Harvard-Yale games from 1909 to 1927 reflect many of the broad changes in American society over that period.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Tenth Day Out

Cunard Line,
1856



English railroad magnate Henry Pease, growing weary at the end of an eleven-day voyage across the Atlantic in 1856, made notations next to each item on the breakfast menu. Such first-hand observations are rare. Menus typically do not provide information about the quality of the food or what dishes were actually available that day. Four extant menus from his voyage provide a rare glimpse of the food service on a mid-nineteenth-century steamship.