The Menu Collection of The New York Public Library

Selections from the Buttolph Collection


The Terrace Garden and Lexington Opera-House, from East 58th to East 59th Street (near Lexington), consisted of theatre, ballroom and open-air garden, a complex that was expanded in 1892. According to the section on bowling in Athletics and out-door sports for women (New York and London: Macmillan, 1903), there were "a great many alleys in every city, and very few of them...given up entirely to men; in nearly every case certain evenings are set apart for ladies."


Eating arrangements for passengers in the early days of American railroad travel were problematic to say the least. Dining cars developed during the 1860s, with the first modern dining car built by the Pullman Company, christened "The Delmonico," appearing in 1868. By the last decade of the century, leading lines were competing for passengers by subsidizing "gourmet" meal service at modest cost.


The Lotos Club, formed in 1870 and one of the oldest literary clubs in the country, was in 1892 located on 21st Street. The club provided meals, lodging, and special dinners for celebrity guests. The special dinner menus were usually large-format and elaborately designed.



Eating arrangements for passengers in the early days of American railroad travel were problematic to say the least. Dining cars developed during the 1860s, with the first modern dining car built by the Pullman Company, christened "The Delmonico," appearing in 1868. By the last decade of the century, leading lines were competing for passengers by subsidizing "gourmet" meal service at modest cost. For the better part of a century, Delmonico's set the national standard in fine dining, and played a central role in business, political and social life in New York City. The restaurant's menu designs exhibit considerable range and variety. The organizing committee for this banquet reads like a Who's Who of the publishing and printing industry in New York in 1893.


Before the turn of the century, new immigrant groups had settled on Staten Island, the Italians especially in Rosebank. Miss Buttolph, founder of the Library's menu collection, did not neglect the outer boroughs in her tireless search for specimens. This jokey menu cover speaks for itself; the six-course banquet featured sturdy Italian fare.


The Easter bunny image, die-cut and pasted on this Hotel Brunswick menu cover, came from England, and was in fact an Easter hare. The Brunswick, renowned for the excellence of its French kitchen, offered an extensive but unpretentious Easter menu. The accompanying "Programme of Music" began with a Sousa march and ended with a Strauss galop.


The Old Guard was originally a military company, organized in 1826, then formed as a club to promote good fellowship and help out indigent members, their widows and children. The annual Old Guard Ball, held each January, was a brilliant social event, as its venue would suggest.


By the late 1890s, the temperance movement, allied with Progressive political thought and supported by the reform press, came into its own as a national policy goal. The anti-drink consensus culminated in the 18th amendment some 20 years later.


The interior of this jaunty pamphlet menu includes additional line drawings by the cover artist, H. B. Eddy, along with bouncy banking doggerel. ("The first thought of the banker/Is now the interest rate/But when he dines with us to-night/'Twill be, what's on his plate.") The dessert course, Baked Klondike, promised "genuine Klondike nuggets"--one per table--within.


Inside this charming and very traditional chromolithographic cover is a menu offering very traditional holiday fare. The Belvedere House was located at 224 Fourth Avenue from 1879 to 1909.


The Marlborough's New Year menu was standard fare for its day--Blue Points, Mock turtle soup, Maryland terrapin with pineapple fritters, Red-head duck, English plum pudding and Tutti Frutti ice cream. Spaghetti a l'Italienne was listed among the vegetables. The "orchestral programme" featured selections from opera and ballet, "Eli Green's Cake Walk," and a xylophone solo by (so it seems) the Musical Director's son.