Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lilliputian Quantities: An Early Tasting Menu


The cover of this 1879 menu from the Wellesley Hotel looks straightforward, except that the small town located a few miles outside Boston was not yet officially named Wellesley; it was still called Needham.1  After making a fortune in sewing machines, William Emerson Baker had first tried to establish a “hygienic village” named Hygeria, where he would conduct scientific work on sanitary food production. When his proposal was rejected, he simply adopted “Wellesley” as the name of his resort hotel and its location.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mixed Icons

Occupied Japan, 

This cover illustration, showing Santa Claus flying through a Japanese gate toward Mount Fuji, represented a new style of graphic design. It appeared on a Christmas menu at the U.S. Tachikawa Air Base in Occupied Japan in 1949. What was different about it was that it showed Western holiday images in the same pictorial space with the iconic symbols of Japan. This exuberant scene stood in stark contrast with the deep despair that had been prevalent in Japan during the years immediately following World War II. By the end of 1945, more than 350,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Japan, supervising almost every aspect of civilian life. Sometimes called the “Confusion Era” in Japanese art history, this chaotic period was also disorienting for the Americans who participated in the Occupation. However, by the time this Christmas menu appeared, the situation had improved considerably.