THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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7 posts categorized "Food and Drink"

03 February 2017

Have you tried the Electroburger? A 1962 menu for the North Shore Line’s Electroliner dining car

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Restaurant cars in trains are disappearing fast and with them a lot of the charm of travelling by train, including the possibility of encounters of the kind depicted in films from North by Northwest to, more recently, Almodóvar's Julieta . For train lovers who daydream of dining on board the Orient Express but are more likely to find themselves eating a sandwich squeezed in the seat of a budget airline, our collection of menu cards can provide some inspiration. 

The Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, also known as the North Shore Line, was an interurban railway line that covered the route between Chicago and Milwaukee.  This striking menu card [YD.2016.b.444], printed in 1962, shows the dishes on offer at the Electroliner’s Tavern-Lounge car, where passengers could sit down and enjoy a full service diner-style meal or a snack.

  Electro1

The star item in the menu is the Electroburger, served on a roll with potato chips and relish for the price of $1, including coffee.  The menu also contains a wide selection of sandwiches, including ‘flavor-rich’ sardines’, ‘young, tender, selected tongue’, and ‘Milwaukee-style liver sausage’. Passengers had an ample choice of drinks available, from sherry to a dry martini, and could even purchase playing cards for entertainment.

Image2

Those travelling in the morning could also enjoy a cooked breakfast, as shown in this earlier Electroliner menu from c.1955 [YD.2016.b.443]

Electro3

The British Library holds a rich collection of menus, including a collection of menu cards spanning the years 1890–1904 which were donated by the American collector Miss Frank E. Buttolph – for more information please see this blog post. All of them are available from our Explore catalogue.

 

28 April 2014

Erica Wagner: A Trojan post

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Uncle Sam, Troy.  Photo by Erica Wagner

Image © Erica Wagner

Who's that? Why, Uncle Sam, of course – standing in downtown Troy, New York, his native town. Sam Wilson was a meatpacker who supplied American troops during the war of 1812. You might call him this city's most famous son, if he didn't have some stiff competition: Kurt Vonnegut hailed from here (if you've come across a mention of Illium in his work, that's good old Troy), and just this morning, on River Street, I came across a plaque on a house that marked the site of the old Troy Sentinel newspaper â€“ in which Clement Clark Moore first published The Night Before Christmas

But I'm grateful to Stephen van Rensselaer, too â€“ who founded Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute here in 1824; it was America's first technical college, and remains one of the world's oldest. RPI was the alma mater of Washington Roebling, the subject of the biography I'm writing, and builder of New York's Brooklyn Bridge. RPI sits above the town, and has the feeling of a city on a hill â€“ perhaps more so than in days gone by, since the elegant campus is sometimes in striking contrast to urban Troy. Once one of the country's wealthiest cities thanks to its rich manufacturing heritage (everything from shirt collars to steel), these days there are plenty beautiful brownstone houses which are boarded up and broken down. 

That said: this morning I headed to the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market â€“ and found a thriving local produce market which was positively inspiring; if you ask me, it made the Greenmarket in Manhattan's Union Square look a little tired, which is saying something. It was a lively scene: and in downtown, certainly, many of those lovely old houses are getting the care they deserve. I was last here at RPI about four years ago; since then it does seem like business is coming back into the city at last. Uncle Sam would be proud. 

Erica Wagner is a 2014 Eccles Centre Writer-in-Residence at the British Library

26 February 2013

Guest Post: Miss Frank E. Buttolph – menu collector extraordinaire

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Buttolph menu

Dinner in Honour of His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, 1904, C.120.f.2

Public Domain Mark These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

The Library holds a curious collection of menu and event cards from the turn of the last century which were collected and donated to what is now the British Library by an American lady called Miss Frank E. Buttolph. The menu cards feature meals served not only at restaurants but also at state banquets and annual association and society dinners. They often include details of the order of service, toasts and anthems from the events, and some even include full seating plans. Many of the cards feature sumptuous print and beautiful illustrations and offer us a glimpse into the eating habits, social mores, fashions and food trends in America at the turn of the twentieth century for a certain strata of society. The cards are delicately held together in four, large, leather-bound volumes and chart Miss Buttloph’s exhaustive menu collecting project. Ranging from ornately decorated hardbound embossed menus to much plainer railroad dining-car menus, the collection spans the years 1890–1904.

Miss Buttolph sent some menu cards and an accompanying letter to us in April 1902, enquiring as to whether we could help with her attempts to acquire two copies of the menu for King Edward VII’s coronation, due to take place in August of that year. She also wanted to find out whether a menu card from the Millenary Banquet for King Alfred had arrived; it had and can still be found in the collection today at shelmark C.120.f.2. Unfortunately we do not know whether she ever managed to obtain the Coronation menu cards that she was so keen to secure.

Miss Buttolph posted adverts and wrote letters to people all over the world to solicit menu cards for her project, and was quite fussy about the quality of the items sent to her. She did not hesitate to send back menu cards if they did not reach her high standard. In an article from 1906 the New York Times described her as 'a tiny, unostentatious, literary-looking lady, whose bugaboo is a possible spot upon one of her precious menus.'  Miss Buttolph was indeed a formidable character, who took her task of collecting menu cards extremely seriously; during her time as a volunteer at the Astor Collection (now part of The New York Public Library) she would only allow people to view the collection of menu cards held there under her strict supervision.

The collection at the British Library includes menus from some of New York’s most fashionable establishments of the day, such as Delmonico’s, and the Waldorf Astoria; from state banquets such as one held in honour of HRH Prince Henry of Prussia; to a banquet for the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, held in Arkansas in 1903. The majority of the menus were written in French, usually with no description of what the dish actually contained. The diners’ knowledge of French cuisine was assumed; Ris de veau a la Pilgrim, Petits aspics de foies gras à la gelée and Sorbet de fantasie are the some of dishes that appear on the menus. Oysters and mock turtle soup also seem to have been firm favourites of the period.

Miss Buttolph originally began collecting menus for what is now The New York Public Library (NYPL), which holds over 25,000 of the menu cards that she collected for them over some 23 years. However, many staff at the library found her disruptive behaviour untenable and she was dismissed in 1923. The NYPL is currently running a project called What’s on the Menu to transcribe its archive of over 40,000 digitised menu cards, including Miss Buttolph’s, dish-by-dish.

There aren’t many details available on the intriguing Miss Buttolph or why exactly she started collecting menu cards but there are a few clues as to her motives in an article from the New York Times in 1904, which noted that  'she frankly avers that she does not care two pins for the food lists on her menus, but their historical interest means everything.' They are indeed of great historical interest, offering us a charming insight into the way people dined at the turn of the twentieth century and the society in which they lived.

- A guest post from Sue Msallem, SOAS intern.

Good NIght
[Shelfmark C.120.f.2]

Public Domain Mark These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

20 August 2012

Breadfruit, Rum and Mutinies: the career of William Bligh

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Breadfruit [store]

 Plant accommodation on HMS Bounty [BL Shelfmark: RB.31.c.503(1)].

I’ve been doing further reading on Australian history this week and you can’t cover early nineteenth- century Australia without coming across William Bligh. Bligh became Governor of New South Wales in 1806 but prior to this he had already undertaken a number of missions for the British Government in European, Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific waters. One of these missions provides Team Americas with another blog on the links between Australasia and the Americas.

While in Tahiti as part of Cook’s first Pacific voyage, Joseph Banks noted that the local Uru, or breadfruit, had potential as a source of cheap, high energy food that could be cultivated in British colonies. Banks successfully promoted his idea after returning to London, and Bligh was dispatched with HMS Bounty to acquire plants for use in the Caribbean. After one mutiny, a trip back to London (via Koupang) and two trips to Tahiti for specimens, Bligh finally delivered the breadfruit plants to Jamaica.

Breadfruit [illus]
Illustration of breadfruit in Bligh’s A Voyage to the South Sea [BL Shelfmark: : RB.31.c.503(1)]

Following success as a Naval captain in Europe, and having earned Nelson’s favour at the Battle of Copenhagen, Bligh was appointed Governor of New South Wales. Arriving in 1806 Bligh immediately had to deal with the New South Wales Corps, the standing regiment for the colony which had set up a decent sideline in profiteering illegal trade items – namely, rum. Eventually this led to the 'Rum Rebellion' of 1808 and Bligh was forced to take another ignominious trip on the sea (this time to Hobart).

Breadfruit [map]
Map of Bligh’s journey, in A Voyage to the South Sea [BL Shelfmark: : RB.31.c.503(1)].

While mutinies grab popular attention, Bligh's career offers a good example of the way in which many individuals in the British Navy helped to developed global networks of exchange and control which underpinned the British Empire. He’s also a case study of what binds Team Americas and Australasia together.

I’ve noted in an earlier blog the Library’s collections on Cook and his expedition, and there is also a significant collection on the expeditions of Bligh; for starters see, A Voyage to the South Sea, 1792 [BL Shelfmark: RB.31.c.503(1)] and A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty’s Ship Bounty, 1790 [BL Shelfmark: G.3066].

[PJH]

25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

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Queen anne 

I was a little early at St Paul's this morning, where the annual Thanksgiving Service for the American community in London takes place, so I said hello to Richard Belt's Victorian replica of Francis Bird's 1712 sculpture of Queen Anne while we drank our coffee (it was a very cold morning). 

At the base are four marble figures depicting the notional dominions of France, Britannia, Ireland and, shown here, America, with her foot resting on a severed male head and what an eighteenth-century guidebook called an 'alligator creeeping'*.  In 1813, the Gentleman's Magazine speculated that the head was supposed to be that of Oliver Cromwell.  Happy Thanksgiving.

 

[M.S.]

21 July 2010

Mark Twain's Autobiography

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[M.S. writes] Last week, Carole and I were pleased to be invited to a reading and discussion at the English Speaking Union, thanks to the U.S. Embassy.  The event marked Granta magazine's publication of a long excerpt from Samuel Clemens' reminiscences, which are due to be published in full this autumn after a century-long embargo.

Images_Online_083786
[10604.i.18, plate XXI]

Bonnie Greer and Robert McCrum gave a U.S. (and Southern) and U.K. perspective, the audience provided some Southern context, and Kerry Shale channelled Huck and Clemens perfectly.  John Freeman(modestly introduced himself as 'just a guy', but also a guy who currently edits Granta) graciously kept the discussion moving along.  We also learnt that 'Mark Twain' echoes the call of safety made as ships reached the second fathom.  The only problem was that the power of Clemen's writing (which sounded powerfully modern, perhaps one reason for the emargo, as if Twain's literary ability could not be recognised in his own time because of his popularfame) summoned up such mouthwatering images of food and home-style cooking, our stomachs were rumbling.

We look forward to the full publication of the autobiography, and swear to revisit Twain's oeuvre.  Meanwhile, here's a rather grainy picture:

Twainblog 
  

01 December 2009

Milk and Honey Route

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A conversation with Jamie, Head of Literary Manuscripts, at lunch brought up the not-so-well-known, Tennessee Williams play, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963, and turned into the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton film, Boom! in 1968).  Conversation turned to the phrase 'milk train', which summoned up images of early morning steam trains bringing churns into London from Devon, Somerset and other bucolic places.  What was Williams doing with this very English sounding phrase, we wondered ignorantly?

Turns out we were wrong, in a way.  The milk-train hails from 1850s America (OED: '1853 Knickerbocker 42 532 The ‘*milk-train’ still had the right of way'), and rather than gently rattling along, stopping at every little station, it races to town, having the right of way at junctions. (Having 'highballs', in fact: ‘Milk trains’..have ‘rights’ over the rails and get nothing but ‘high balls’)

One of the references in the Dictionary (via high ball) pointed to Milk and Honey(1930), by 'Dean Stiff', and something we've relatively recently acquired in first edition for the Americas Collections.  The title is one of the pioneering sociological works of 'participant observation', providing an insider's view of a slice of society.  (You can read more about the sociologist in question, Nels Anderson, at the University of New Brunswick.)  The book provides a guide to 'hobohemia', a glossary, several cartoons; and also an account of the train routes ridden by the 'hobos' of 1920s and 30s America.  The Milk and Honey route ran from Boston to New York, but any 'railroad running through a valley of plenty may be called a milk and honey line' (24).  The D.R.G. (Denver and Rio Grande Railroad) may signify also the Damn Rotten Grub, while the M.K.T. Bible-belt railroad of Missouri, Kansas and Texas was known as 'Moral, Klannish and Theological'.

Still, there was a more English reference in the OED: '1930 P. G. WODEHOUSEVery Good, Jeeves! ix. 251 Her intention was..to..leave by the next train, even if that train was a milk-train, stopping at every station.'  Bertie would probably like a highball, too...

[M.S.]