Saturday, December 21, 2019

An Era of Prosperity

Christmas,
1878-1882



The United States emerged from a deep depression in 1878 and entered a period of rapid industrial growth. Over the next five years, Thomas Edison patented the light bulb; John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Trust; and the railroads constructed thousands of miles of track, transforming a myriad of lines into a national transportation network. The ranks of the middle and upper classes expanded once again, enabling more people than ever to dine outside the home on the holidays when the hotels pulled out all the stops. Twelve Christmas menus from the years 1878 to 1882 reveal the social and food customs of the new era that would become known as the Gilded Age.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Hump

Kunming, China
Christmas 1943 



The eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains was called “The Hump” by pilots who flew transport aircraft between India and China during the Second World War. The military airlift over the treacherous Himalayas supplied the Allies in China, including advance units of the U.S. Army. The missions were dangerous. In addition to the notable absence of airfields, there were no reliable navigation charts or radio aids and the weather was often  bad. The logistical challenge of operating this aerial pipeline is reflected by a non-traditional dinner at Army headquarters in Kunming, China on Christmas in 1943. Undoubtedly, the most appreciated item was a beverage not shown on the menu. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

George Peabody

London & South Danvers, 
1851-1869 



Nineteen-year-old Winslow Homer illustrated this lively scene showing the celebration for London-based financier George Peabody in South Danvers, Massachusetts in 1856.1,2 Peabody  had returned to his hometown to see the library he recently donated, one of the first of his many contributions to society. In addition to his largess, Peabody helped improve the relationship between the United States and Great Britain which had been in the doldrums since the War of 1812. Charitable giving and diplomatic efforts naturally lead to banquets, both given and received. Seven menus recall significant moments in the life of this great man whose generous initiatives continue to this day.