Saturday, December 21, 2019

An Era of Prosperity


Emerging from a deep economic depression, the United States entered a period of rapid industrial growth in 1878. Over the next five years, Thomas Edison patented the light bulb; John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Trust; and the railroad magnates added thousands of miles of new track, transforming a myriad of lines into a national network. The ranks of the middle and upper classes expanded once again, enabling more people than ever to dine at hotels on the holidays. Twelve Christmas menus from 1878 to 1882 reveal the food customs of the era that became 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, 

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  returned to his hometown to dedicate the library he had recently donated. 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 key moments in the life of this great man whose generosity continues to benefit society.