Thursday, April 16, 2015

Easter Sunday, 1865

Springfield, Mass.

This menu comes from the Massasoit House in Springfield, Massachusetts on April 16, 1865. It was Easter Sunday—150 years ago today. The dinner was served in the early afternoon and featured a typical selection of nineteenth-century dishes, such as prairie chickens (usually from Illinois), apple fritters, and squash pies. There were also a few springtime specialties like Connecticut River shad and cowslips, a flowering herb traditionally used for medicinal purposes. What is unusual about this menu is not the cuisine, but the design; the border seems slightly too thick for its overall proportions. 

The heavy black border symbolizes mourning for Abraham Lincoln who died the previous day. To create this somber effect, the printer inserted wider-than-usual straight rules on the four sides of the movable type in the bed of the press. He was not alone in expressing his grief, for every store and house was seemingly draped in black or displayed some other sign of mourningIt had only been the Sunday before that Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox. Believing the war would soon be over, the townspeople gathered around bonfires that week, cheering and waving flags. Now it was the sound of church bells tolling in the distance that filled the air. This menu marks one of the most sorrowful moments in American history.


1 comment:

ephemeralist said...

Thanks for pointing that out. I'm sure I would not have recognized the significance of the border otherwise.