Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Woodchuck Sunning

Chicago, 
1877-1881

The annual game dinner at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Chicago was a nationally-renowned event in the late nineteenth century. Featuring every conceivable species of game, there were dishes like ham of black bear, leg of elk, loin of moose, and buffalo tongue. Small forest animals appeared on the menu as broiled rabbit and ragout of squirrel à la Francaise. Dozens of roasted fowl were at hand, including Blue-billed Widgeons, Red-winged Starlings, and “Sand Peeps,” slang for any one of the five smallest North American sandpipers, the tiny shorebirds that once flitted along our beaches in large numbers. Ornamental dishes with fanciful names, such as “The Coon at Home” and “Woodchuck Sunning,” completed the yearly spectacle.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Liberty Enlightening the World

New York City, 
1885-1986


The 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty was recognized this year by the issuance of a “forever” stamp. However, it turned into an embarrassment after it was discovered that the new stamp was based on a photograph of a half-size replica which stands in front of the New York-New York Casino in Las Vegas. Making matters worse, the U.S. Post Office decided to stick with the new stamp, explaining, “We still love the stamp design and would have selected this photograph anyway…Our track record is excellent for this as far as we’re concerned.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dante’s Pullman

New York City, 
ca. 1935

Built in the late 1860s, the three-story townhouse at 59 Charles Street in Greenwich Village is considered notable because so much of this residence is original. When the historic building was sold in 1967, the New York Times reported that Miss Emma Gerdes, the previous resident, had lived in the house for eighty-two years.1 She moved there with her family in 1884 when she was eight years old and stayed long after her brothers moved away and her parents died. Over many years, she kept the house almost exactly the same, slowly turning it into a time capsule. According to Times, there had been a few small changes—the large metal chandelier hanging from the hand-painted ceiling in the parlor was converted from gas to electricity, and the stairwell received new wallpaper in 1923. Recent owners have confined most of their home improvements to systems hidden inside the walls, such as plumbing, electrical systems, and air conditioning. Given its well-documented pedigree, it was surprising to learn something about this building that had been long forgotten. It once housed an Italian restaurant.