Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Inimitable Menus


A little over two decades ago, staffers for an incoming president were looking for White House menus from the turn of the last century, attempting to imitate Theodore Roosevelt’s style, although not his substance; ironically, the ideals of the new administration were unlike those of the Progressive Era ushered in by Roosevelt. Still, it was understandable why the politicos wanted to re-create the aura of a time when American confidence was running high. While their efforts proved futile—printed menus were not then used at the White House—Theodore Roosevelt was enthusiastically fêted by the citizenry whenever he was away from Washington. His popularity is revealed by the size, complexity, and sheer exuberance of the menus from these occasions, as shown by four examples spanning his presidency.