New York Public Library Menu Collection,1850-Present

Delmonico's Restaurant, 1899

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has a fantastic collection of menus online, ranging in years from 1850 to present day. It's one of those online databases that is easy to get caught up in, only to look up and find that it's over an hour later, and you've gone down a digitized menus from the 1800s rabbit hole. (At least that's what happened to... a friend of mine. Yeah, that's it.)

A woman named Frank E. Buttolph was integral to the archive. She started collecting menus in 1900, which she explained in a letter to the trustees of the NYPL. Buttolph, a visionary who intended for the collection to be for research, was considered an eccentric with a strange obsession. Read more about Buttoph here.  

These images are menus ranging from 1899 to 1959. Many of the menus, some of which had elaborate covers with artworks printed in color, tell the reader much more about the past than what foods were commonly consumed in restaurants. Cocktails and beverages were remarkably different. Cigarettes and cigars were often listed. The cover of the menu for the famous Cotton Club had imagery that today would be found patently offensive and racist. The menus truly are time capsules. 

Read more in this article. Visit the NYPL website to browse this fascinating collection here. 

 Hotel Stewart San Francisco, 1921

Thanksgiving at Hotel Paris, 1935

 Cotton Club, 1938

Lockheed Air Terminal Coffee Shop, 1949

 Tavern on the Green, 1950

Castle Restaurant, 1959

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