Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fresh Eggs in California

San Francisco, 

In late 1852, the clipper Golden Eagle set sail from Boston on her maiden voyage, bound for California.1 Rounding Cape Horn during the supposed calm of the Antarctic summer, the ship encountered rough seas that split the bow, causing it to return to Rio for a month of repairs. By the time she arrived at the Golden Gate, it was the spring of 1853. Sailing past the new lighthouse on Alcatraz Island, still waiting for its revolving lantern to arrive from France, the great clipper finally docked at a multinational city of 40,000 inhabitants who came to seek their fortunes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dining at a Love Hotel in the Gilded Age

New York City
ca. 1892

Women were a popular motif on cigar boxes in the late nineteenth century. Dressed as goddesses, angels, or warriors, they were often depicted as voluptuous and seductive. Even so, it is rare to find a label like the one shown below with an illustration of a female nude, perhaps because such cigar boxes were intended for brothels. The Victorians were adept at being discreet whenever they strayed from their strict moral code espousing sexual restraint. Not surprisingly, ephemera relating to this part of their private lives can be scarce. A menu from a little-known hotel called “The Palette” provides a case in point. Operating in New York during the Gilded Age, it was patronized by members of upper class who were leading double lives. Never mentioned in contemporary newspapers and magazines, this obscure hotel remains something of a mystery, despite the fact that the prices on its menu were in a league with high-society haunts like Sherry’s and Delmonico’s.