Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Interesting Find: Menu Collections

Menu for the 7 April 1960 Air France flight.  Om nom nom.  From the Los Angeles Public Library Menu Collection.

Bookstores and libraries dedicate large portions of their space to cookbooks, cooking shows are popular, food blogs and online recipes are everywhere, and even my Facebook feed is full of friends' pictures of food they have made or are about to eat.

Our ancestors also ate, of course!  And not always at home.

I've already found some sources that deal with what our ancestors ate, like Genealoger's "Cooking and Food" section and blogs like Ancestors in Aprons.

But today I stumbled on the Menu Collection of Hayden Mathews at Johnson and Wales University.*

This unique, beautiful, and historical collection of menus was graciously donated on behalf of Mr. Hayden Mathews of Vero Beach, Florida and Stamford, Connecticut. Mr. Mathews began collecting menus when he was a young boy in the 1930s. There are over 300 items, spanning the 1920s through the 1940s, from hotels and inns, cruises and shipping lines, trains, planes, clubs, and commemorative events.
Some of the menus were collected during Mr. Mathews’ travels with his family, but as his relatives and parents' friends learned of his endeavor they enthusiastically contributed to the collection. Evidence of this can be found in a humorous letter from a great uncle who helped add to the collection.

You could look at these menus to get an idea of what your ancestors (or even you!) were eating when traveling in the 1930's and 1940's.  I've found a huge amount records of collateral relations who had traveled overseas by cruise ship, and some more evidence of airplane and car rides taken on vacation or special commemorative events, like food alluded to in the Tibbetts Family Association notices sent to my 2nd great grandaunt May Tibbetts Jarvis.

Other institutions also have menu projects, including NYPL Labs "What's on the menu?"(this site is pretty fun), the Los Angeles Public Library's Menu Collection, the University of Washington Menus Collection, the Academia Barilla Menu Collection, and UNLV's "Menu: The Art of Dining."

Gear Patrol also has an article "Historic Menus 'Round the World: 140 Years of Menu Design."

*I didn't include an image from the actual collection as I have not contacted the copyright owners:
"Images and content in the ScholarsArchive@JWU are for educational use only. All design and content is the property of the copyright owner. If you wish to reproduce or publish the images in any form, you must contact the copyright owner to obtain permission."

© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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