Welcome to “Eating History,” a series in which Jaya Saxena of the New-York Historical Society mines the vast archives of the museum and library in search of vintage images and ephemera that offer a look into how New Yorkers used to dine. Follow the museum @NYHistory for more.
These days, most menus come on paper. Sometimes on a thick board. Occasionally on an iPad. When did we get so boring? In searching through the New-York Historical Society’s collections, there are menus printed on everything from silk to ceramic. Here are a few examples.
Most of these menus are for private dinners hosted by clubs and societies. There is a metal tray from the 1906 Jubilee Banquet of the Schnorer Club of Morrisania, a German-American recreational club. Sherry and cigars were among the items listed on the menu that night.
There is also a 4th of July menu from Hotel Traymore in Atlantic City printed on a plate, which is adorned with images of dynamite around the edges. The summer bill of fare included Blue Point oysters and Little Neck clams, as well as spring lamb with mint sauce and a dessert of champagne jelly and huckleberry pie.
However, my favorite has to be the menu for the Fourth Annual Banquet of the New York Southern Society, which comes on a fold-out fan. How long until one of New York’s outdoor beer gardens adopts something similar in the hot summer months?
Click through the gallery above to see how much better menus used to be.