University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Food, Dining, and Entertainment in the United States

from Simmons to Rombauer

Exhibition at the Hugh M. Morris Library

University of Delaware

June 21-September 30, 1994

for reference assistance email Special Collections


The exhibition "An American Feast: Food, Dining, and Entertaining in the United States from Simmons to Rombauer," on view in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery, Hugh M. Morris Library, University of Delaware, focuses on American culture and attitudes toward food and dining from the 1796 publication of the first American cookbook and the 1931 publication of Irma Rombauer's kitchen icon, The Joy of Cooking. The exhibition examines the changing patterns of American food preparation and service, the impact of technology, the origins and influence of the home economics movement, the evolution and democratization of the dining room, American attitudes toward drink, the etiquette of dining, and the popularity of commercial dining establishments.

Materials documenting these aspects of American food culture are eclectic and include cookbooks, etiquette manuals, architectural handbooks, periodicals, diaries, manuscript recipe books, menus, trade catalogs, and guidebooks. The exhibition also draws from the University of Delaware Library's Unidel History of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture collection, and makes use of images from broadsides, posters, and photographs. Additionally, the exhibition draws upon Special Collections' strong holdings of books on cookery, documenting approaches to food preparation in America over the course of nearly two centuries.

Items selected for inclusion in the exhibition are interdisciplinary in subject, supporting research in a wide range of academic studies, including social and cultural history, women s studies, the history of technology, art history, business history, and cultural and urban anthropology. "An American Feast" demonstrates the superb depth of resources available in the University of Delaware Library for researching not only the patterns of American foodways, but also for documenting many aspects of social, cultural, industrial, business, and intellectual life in the United States during the nineteenth century.


The tradition of American cooking goes back to early colonial times, when recipes were handed down by word of mouth and recorded in collections of handwritten "receipts" (meaning "received rules of cookery"). The few printed cookbooks in circulation in America during this period were European imports brought over by immigrant settlers. The first cookbook with an American imprint, Eliza Smith's The Complete Housewife, a reprint of a popular English work, would not appear until 1742, and the publication of the first cookbook by an American author, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, would wait until 1796. Although the printing of directions for food preparation has been a primary motive for their production since the colonial period, cookbooks or receipt books hold a larger historical significance. Since colonial times, the cookbook has reflected American progress and way of life. They reveal social customs, moralistic concerns, the foodstuffs available at a certain time, and progress in experimental cookery and nutritional research. Cookbooks, therefore, are more than guides to food preparation; they provide evidence of the transformations occurring in American family life.

American Cookery started a vogue for the printing of recipes by Americans; about 160 titles appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century. The early American cookbook was usually divided into three parts, with sections on cookery, medicine, and household hints. With little professional help available to homemakers, the receipt book was used in ministering to the ordinary as well as the emergency needs of their households, and quite often provided the philosophical underpinnings for a woman who endeavored to set up and maintain a well-ordered Christian home.

By mid-century, a new form of cookbook appeared: the compilation of recipes contributed by the members of women's organizations. New organizations appeared that were devoted exclusively to women's interests, and some of the cookery literature published at this time sprung directly from such groups. Fund raising and promoting a group's objectives, such as suffrage or temperance, were the prime motivations for the production of these cookbooks. The tradition of publishing such cookbooks was vigorously maintained into the twentieth century; even Irma Rombauer's American classic The Joy of Cooking, originally published in 1931, was derived from a 1922 handout compiled for students in a cooking class at the St. Louis First Unitarian Women's Alliance. For other groups the motivation for publishing cookbooks was to promote certain theories about the relation of food to health, income, and civilization. Commercial manufacturers of food and goods for the kitchen also began to produce cookbooks, essentially as promotional literature for the use of their products.

The introduction and growth of the home economics movement affected cookbooks greatly during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The cooking school movement, organized about the same time, resulted in another trend in cookery publications. The cooking school cookbooks reflect the tendency of American society to professionalize, and to disperse the growing body of "scientific" knowledge about nutrition and health. The connection between cookery and progress has been continually asserted in the history of the American cookbook. In her 1896 Boston Cooking- School Cook Book, Fannie Farmer observed that "Progress in civilization has been accompanied by progress in cookery."

Amelia Simmons.
American Cookery. Hartford: Hudson & Goodwin, 1796.
From the collection of Mrs. Thomas M. Scruggs and Margaret Cook.

American Cookery was the first printed cookbook written by an American, and the first cookery title in which the word "American" appeared. Little is known about its author, Amelia Simmons, who described herself as "an American orphan." Indeed, this slim publication is addressed specifically to orphans and others of "unfortunate circumstances" who "are reduced to the necessity of going into families in the line of domestics." She observes that "it must ever remain a check upon the poor solitary orphan, that while those females who have parents, or brothers, or riches to defend their indiscretions, that the orphan must depend solely upon character."

While borrowing a few recipes from English works, most of American Cookery was an original compilation; thoroughly American in spirit and couched in the language Simmons's compatriots could understand. In its pages appeared the first recipes using corn meal as the basic ingredient, as well as earthy and vernacular directions for brewing spruce beer and soft American gingerbread. Molasses took the place of the European treacle, and Indian slapjacks replaced the Scottish griddlecakes. For the first time recipes appeared for wild turkey roasts, pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce, and watermelon-rind chutney. At the same time, some favored European ingredients were shunned: "Garlicks, tho' used by the French, are better adapted to the uses of medicine than cookery." Within months of its appearance, the original edition was heavily oversubscribed. The work quickly attaining a popularity which kept it continuously in print, through dozens of improved and expanded editions, well into the 1830s.

Susannah Carter.
The Frugal Housewife or Complete Woman Cook. Philadelphia: J. Carey, 1796.
From the Collection of Mrs. Thomas M. Scruggs and Margaret Cook.

Fannie Merritt Farmer (1857-1915).
The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1896.

Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln (1884-1921).
Mrs. Lincoln s Boston Cook Book. . . Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1884.
From the collection of Mrs. Thomas M. Scruggs and Margaret Cook.

Mary J. Lincoln was one of the early teachers at the Boston Cooking School. She is often cited as the school's first principal, although this has been shown to be inaccurate.

Richard Briggs.
The New Art of Cookery, According to the Present Practice. Philadelphia: W. Spotswood, R. Campbell, and E. Johnson, 1792.

Mary Randolph (1762-1828).
The Virginia House-Wife. Washington: Davis and Force, 1824.

Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell (1745-1828).
A New System of Domestic Cookery. Boston: Andrews & Cummlngs, and L. Blake, 1807.

The Universal Receipt Book or Complete Family Directory.... By A Society of Gentlemen in New York. New York: I. Riley, Van Winkle & Wiley, 1814.

Fanny Lemira Gillette. Hugo Ziemann.
The White House Cook Book. New York: The Saalfield Publishing Company, 1913.
Gift of Helen Bain Brown

Originally published in 1887 under F. L. Gillette's name alone, this "new and enlarged edition" adds Hugo Ziemann, "Steward of the White House," as author. Ziemann is further described as "caterer for that Prince Napoleon who was killed while fighting the Zulus . . . steward of the famous Hotel Splendide in Paris . . . conducted the celebrated Brunswick Cafe in New York, and still later gave to the Hotel Richelieu, in Chicago, a cuisine which won the applause of even the gourmets of foreign lands. It was here that he laid the famous 'spread' to which chiefs of the warring factions of the Republican Convention sat down in June, 1888, and from which they arose with asperities softened, differences harmonized and victory organized. "

Philomelia Ann Maria Antoinette Hardin.
Every Bodys Cook and Receipt Book: But More Particularly Designed for Buckeyes Hoosiers Wolverines Corncrakers Suckers and All Epicures Who Wish to Live With the Present Times. [Cleveland: Printed for the author, 1842.]
From the Collection of Mrs. Thomas M. Scruggs and Margaret Cook.

This slim volume is believed to be the earliest work devoted primarily to cookery published west of the Ohio River. The cookbook's title page, and many of its recipes, articulated a growing sense of regional identity, beyond the nationalistic undertones of many antebellum American cookbooks.

American Starch Company, Columbus, Ind.
Almanac and Cook Book Dedicated to the Lady Patrons of the American Starch Company. Columbus, Ind.: American Starch Company [ca. 1883].

Some Delaware Cookbooks

Delaware Power & Light Co.
Modern Cookery with Gas. s.l.: Delaware Power & Light Co. [ ca. 1932].

A promotional "treatise" and recipe book for cooking with gas by Delaware's primary utility company.

Mary Andrews Worthington.
The Home Chef. Dover, Del.: The Richardson & Robbins Co., 1921.

The recipes in this promotional cookbook only include meals made with food products produced by Richardson & Robbins of Dover, Delaware.

Ladies Parish Aid Society, Holy Trinity Church, Wilmington, Del.
Trinity Parish Cook Book: Choice and Tested Recipes Contributed by the Ladies of Trinity Church. Wilmington, Del.: J.M. Rogers' Press, 1892.

New Century Club of Milford, Delaware.
Blue Hen's Chickens' Cook book. Milford, Del.: Caulk Press [ca. 1915].


Between 1830 and 1920 technological advances transformed the American kitchen, completely restructuring its physical character and the type and number of utensils it contained. During this period, the American home witnessed the introduction of new materials such as aluminum, new methods of storage such as refrigeration, new sources of power such as gas and electricity, the commercialization of elegance such as the silverplating of dining utensils, and new forms of food preservation and distribution such as canning and the home delivery of market goods.

Two distinct aspects of emerging technology in the manufacture of consumer goods were the source of change in the nineteenth- century kitchen: applied science's successful control of metals, and the American acceptance of a mechanized mode of fabrication. The seventeenth- and eighteenth-century kitchen relied upon iron as the source of sturdy utensils for fireplace cooking. Before 1830 most American towns had a blacksmith, who fabricated custom- made products on demand. These objects of pre-industrial society were unique in that each was a little different from the others. It was expected that they would not be easily discarded. With the introduction of machine-made appliances and utensils that expectation changed. After 1830, the uniform items of mechanization replaced the custom-made products of the skilled artisan, changing consumer thinking at the same time. Standardization, in becoming the norm, created new standards. The consumer's willingness to accept uniformity in ordinary kitchen equipment implied a readiness to use and discard these goods because one item was as good the next and could be easily and inexpensively replaced.

Mechanization produced an enormous number of kitchen appliances and utensils. In doing this, the physical structure of the kitchen was changed. Instead of a wall dominated by a fireplace, by 1830 the iron range was a movable, factory-made object. Similarly, the cold or root cellar was replaced by the ice box after 1827. Individual dairy rooms and smokehouses became unnecessary because of factory-processed products available in mass-produced containers of tin or glass. The larder a meat and fresh-food storage room ceased to be an architectural necessity by 1920. The manufacturing process made it possible to convert any room with access piped water and power into a kitchen.


The convenience of the stove for cooking had more influence on its eventual popularity than all other factors combined. Food was described in early American cookbooks as better cooked in a fireplace, but the operation was slow and labor intensive. Wrenched backs, blistered hands, smoked eyes, singed hair, and scorched clothes were normal accompaniments to fireplace cooking. Only a few households owned iron stoves by the time Amelia Simmons published her new cookbook, and they remained an uncommon feature in most American homes until the 1830s. Until 1835, stoves were made at bog-iron and blast furnaces. The plates were cast directly from the iron in the smelting furnaces, forming generally brittle and not particularly durable parts because of impurities still left in the iron. After 1835, Jordan L. Mott in New York became the first to cast stoves from purer pig iron.

Experiments with the cast-iron stove continued through the nineteenth century. Wood and coal remained the principal fuels, but coal dust, tar, sawdust, and kerosene were all tried, the last finding some favor. The gas range appeared about 1850, but for most of the century it was considered both extravagant and dangerous. By the 1880s prejudice against them began to decline, but it was not until the 1920s that they became common in city and suburban homes. During the 1890s gasoline stoves had a temporary vogue that was shattered by numerous explosions. Not until late in the century was an electric stove attempted, with one included in the model electric kitchen that awed visitors at the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893.

By 1881, nearly a thousand patents had been issued on stoves, and there were 220 firms manufacturing all types of stoves. Whatever the stove, they all seemed to come in one color--black. By the 1920s, gas ranges were manufactured in all white, a change that aided cleaning. About this same time the dials were elevated to a convenient level, and the oven was raised above the burners where it remained until the middle 1930s. In the late 1920s and early 1930s color variety was introduced in stove design, beginning a transformation in kitchen planning that would last until the present day.

Maria Parloa (1843-1909).
Miss Parloa's New Cook Book and Marketing Guide. Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1880.

Maria Parloa was one of the first two teachers at the Boston Cooking School and author of the first cookbook to promote this connection. She was also a close associate of Ellen Richards and Mary Hinman Abel and an enthusiastic supporter of their New England Kitchen. Along with them, Parloa believed that technology would simplify kitchen activities transform women's lives, and reform society. Early in her career she believed large numbers of kitchen implements to be necessary. In this 1880 publication, Parloa recommended a minimum of 139 utensils in her list of necessary kitchen tools, and stated that "the housekeeper will find that there is continually something new to be bought." By 1908, she altered her view and wrote that although there was much talk of "labor-saving" utensils developed for the kitchen in the past twenty years, they had in fact done little to reduce the labor needed in the kitchen.

Massachusetts Board of Managers, World's Fair, 1893.
Report of the Massachusetts Board of World's Fair Managers. Boston: Wright & Potter, 1894.

Sarah Tyson Heston Rorer (1849-1937).
Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book; a Manual of Housekeeping. Philadelphia: Arnold and Company, 1902. Catharine Esther Beecher (1800-1878). A Treatise on Domestic Economy, for the Use of Young Ladies at Home, and at School. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1846.

Ellen H. Richards (1842-1911).
The Chemistry of Cooking and Cleaning; a Manual for Housekeepers. Boston: Estes & Lauriat, 1882.

Ellen H. Richards (1842-1911).
"The Present Status and Future Development of Domestic Science Courses in the High School," in The Fourth Yearbook of the National Society for the Scientific Study of Education, part II: The Place of Vocational Subjects in the High-School Curriculum. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1906, pp. 39-52.

Mary Hinman Abel (1850-1938) and Ellen H. Richards (1842-1900).
The Story of the New England Kitchen.... Boston: Rockwell and Church, 1890-1893.

Catherine E. Beecher (1800-1878). Harriet Beecher Stowe ( 1811- 1896).
The American Woman's Home: or, Principles of Domestic Science. New York: J. B. Ford and Company, 1869.

This book, an extension of Catherine Beecher's 1812 publication, A Treatise on Domestic Economy, covers a broad span of domestic duties and responsibilities. In their chapter on "A Christian Home" the Beecher sisters discuss the kitchen and its economy in great detail. In other chapters they cover food and its preparation at length but never mention a dining area, dining table, or even the consumption of food.

Mary Harrod Northend.
Remodeled Farmhouses. Boston: Little, Brown, 1915.

Few modest farmhouses and working-class homes of the nineteenth century were designed to include a dining room as a separate architectural feature. Even larger farmhouses belonging to more wealthy owners lacked dining rooms. Instead, many had multifunctional "living rooms" or "parlors." The dining room was a more formal feature found in the homes of those who could afford to spend time, effort, and money on hosting formal functions. By the turn of the century, however, social dining had been absorbed as a part of middle-class culture, and the dining room became a standard feature in the average American home. Most of the farmhouses described in Mary Harrod Northend's Remodeled Farmhouses originally lacked dining rooms, and had to be considered as a part of the remodeling. The main floor plan of "Three Acres," for example, consisted of a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom. The dining room shown here was remodeled from the old kitchen, with the stove and stovepipe removed and the wall opened to reveal the original fireplace.

Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852). The Architecture of Country Houses. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1850.

A. J. Downing's plan book supplied complete plans together with a new aesthetic rationale for house design. Downing established a pattern of associating different kinds of houses with different income levels that would continue for the rest of the century. It is significant that when Downing presented plans for working- class cottages and farmhouses in the 1850s, dining rooms were consistently absent. In place of one, the inexpensive houses had a "living room" or "parlor," a flexible space that could be used for multiple purposes. At this time the dining room was viewed as a space reserved for the homes of the wealthy. Even large farmhouses, such as the one depicted here, do not include dining rooms, even though these dwellings were clearly the homes of families of substantial means.

Edward Atkinson (1827-1905).
"The Art of Cooking," in The Popular Science Monthly Vol. 36 November 1889, pp 1-19.

Mary Hinman Abel (1850-1938).
Practical Sanitary and Economic Cooking Adapted to Persons of Moderate and Small Means. [Rochester, N. Y.] American Public Health Association, 1890.

Reed & Barton, Taunton, Mass.
Illustrated Catalogue and Price List of Electro Silver Plate. Taunton, Mass.: Reed & Barton, 1877.

Beginning in the 1840s, New England become the center for American silverplated wares. By 1848, the firm of Reed and Barton of Taunton, Massachusetts, had turned its attention to silverplating, having begun to make britannia ware as early as 1824 (britannia is a compound of tin, copper, and antimony that was harder and more lustrous than pewter and served as a base metal in the early years of electroplating).

As silverplating and mechanized metal work become more sophisticated, the possibilities for elaborate designs and mass- produced elegance became endless, even absurd. The rococo revival began around the 1840s and lasted well into the 1860s. From about 1865 until 1900, American silver reflected wide popular interest in numerous historical styles and exotic cultures. Silverplated ware of the 1870s is easily identified by a "longlegged" look, angular handles, and a diversity of cast, stamped, chased, and engraved ornamentation. Designs often combined numerous motifs. Dolphins, birds, cows, dogs, lions, sphinxes, animal paws, and winged cupids served as supports and finials; vessels were engraved and chased with designs of flowers, butterflies, birds, and geometrics.

Cooper & McKee, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Illustrated Catalogue of Cooper & McKee's Refrigerators and Ice Chests. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Cooper & McKee, 1890.

Perfection Stove Company, Cleveland, Ohio.
Refrigeration from Oil Heat for Homes Anywhere: Superfex Oil Burning Refrigerator. Cleveland, Ohio: Perfection Stove Company [ca. 1930].

Forest O. Riek.
Rhinelander handbook of Refrigeration. Rhinelander, Wis.: The Rhinelander Refrigerator Company, 1926.

A. Melroy s Philadelphia Directory for 1839. Philadelphia: Isaac Ashead & Co., 1839.

This 1839 Philadelphia Directory includes a full-page advertisement for J. W. Kirk's patented house heater and cooking stove. Opposite is a half-page advertisement for his competitor Thomas D. Lee who dealt in "air heaters of every description, Kitchen Ranges, Stoves, and perpetual ovens." The directory also includes advertisements for other stove manufacturers, including John O'Donnell, James M'Calvey, Peters & M'Clung, and Emlen Stackhouse.

J. H. Perry & Company, New Bedford, Mass.
The Improved Hot Blast Oriental: With the Siphon Flue the Double Base and the Gas Burning Feeder. Albany, N.Y.: J. H. Perry & Company [1870].

W. C. Davis & Company, Cincinnati.
Illustrated and Descriptive Price-List of Stoves Hollow-Ware and Farmers Boilers. Cincinnati: W. C. Davis & Company [ca.1880s]

Phineas Smith.
Price List September 1867: Skates, Mechanics Tools, Tool Chests, Gas Stoves, &c. New York: Phineas Smith, 1867.

Olive Stove Works.
Illustrated Catalogue & Price List of the Olive Stove Works. Rochester, Pa.: Olive Stove Works, 1912.

Reading Stove Works - Orr, Painter & Company.
Catalogue of Stoves, Heaters, Ranges, Furnaces, &c. Reading, Pa.: Press of B. F. Owen, 1889.

Richardson & Boynton Co.
Richardson "Perfect" Cooking Ranges, French Ranges, Laundry Water Heaters, Laundry Stoves. New York: Richardson & Boynton Co., 1913.

Keeley Stove Co., Columbia, Pa.
"Columbian" Stoves, Ranges, Furnaces: Catalogue No. "31". Columbia, Pa.: Keeley Stove Co. [ca. 1930].

Excelsior Stove & Manufacturing Co.
National Stoves and Ranges in Choice-Captivating-Characterizing- Commanding-Colors at a Price Less Than You Expect to Pay. Quincy, Ill.: Excelsior Stove and Manufacturing Co. [ca. 1924].

Monitor Oil Stove Co.
The New Monitor. The Only Absolutely Safe Oil Stove in the World. Cleveland, Oh.: The Monitor Stove Co., 1882.

The kerosene-powered Monitor stove was being marketed at a time when most stoves were wood- and coal-burning. While oil stoves were available since the early 1870s, this advertising flyer claims superiority over the competition because of its patented safety features, particularly its recessed oil reservoir that prevented overheating of fuel.

Yeast Foam Makes Good Bread. Philadelphia & Chicago: Ketterlinus [ca 1910].

Proof of a chromolithographic advertisement.

American Stores Co.
Louella Brand Butter. The Finest Butter in America! A Bridge Party. Philadelphia & New York: Ketterlinus, 1928.

As today, manufacturers of food products in nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used images of children in their advertising to convey the purity, gentleness, and wholesomeness of their products, as well as to evoke a time of innocence and safety.

American Cookery. Boston: The Boston Cooking School Magazine Co. 1896-1947.

This journal was founded and edited for many years by Janet M. Hill. The official journal of the Boston Cooking-School Corporation from 1896 to 1905, the magazine began its publishing life as The Boston Cooking-School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics from 1896 to 1914. The title changed to American Cookery from 1914 to 1946, then became Better Food between 1946 to 1947, and ended as Practical Home Economics in 1947.

Rogers, Smith & Co.
Catalogue of 1847 Rogers Bros. Spoons, Forks, Knives, Etc. Meriden, Conn.: Rogers, Smith & Co. (ca. 1870s).

With the mass production of silverplating and the development of the ability to stamp and raise flatware patterns by machine in the 1840s, elegant dining utensils became widely available to American households with moderate incomes. Most early silverplated flatware was modeled after traditional designs. The Rogers Brothers, founded in 1847, first made silverplated flatware in only three patterns, "Plain," "Threaded," and "Tipped." In 1848 the company added flatware in the "Olive" pattern, which is believed to be the first fancy pattern made in this country. By the 1850s Rogers Brothers introduced spoons with pointed ends and developed more designs. In the 1860s, designs began to appear for the first time above the halfway mark of the spoon handle. Until the late 1860s, Rogers Brothers probably produced most of the flatware blanks plated and stamped by other American manufacturers. With the invention of machinery in the 1870s that could make deeper impressions on flatware, patterns appeared that were more deeply stamped. In the 1880s and 1890s, replicas of human figures began to be designed into flatware, handles became much more elaborate, and many new kinds of serving pieces were also added. By 1900, Rogers Brothers had introduced fifty-one flatware patterns.

Ideas for Refreshment Rooms; Hotel, Restaurant, Lunch Room, Tea Room, Coffee Shop, Cafeteria, Dining Car, . . . Chicago: The Hotel Monthly Press, 1923.


The drinking habits of Americans one hundred years ago were indicators of social status, and the middle classes of small towns and large cities mainly drank nonalcoholic beverages. This circumstance was due in large part to a striking and pervasive development of the early nineteenth century: the temperance movement. To a great extent the crusade against liquor was part of an effort by the old order to maintain control over other social groups that were beginning to assert their rights and to question the powers of their employers and political leaders. The advocacy of temperance was more likely to be embraced by employers than by those they employed. After 1825, old-stock Protestants, under the influence of evangelical religion, turned increasingly against liquor. Traditionally, Americans drank mostly whiskey and other hard liquor, but as the attitudes of the established classes changed, consumption of those beverages declined. This overall decline was offset slightly by immigrants bringing their own drinking habits to this country. One important change was the rise in the consumption of beer.


Traditionally, Americans drank little beer. Low consumption was related to poor quality; English-style brewing techniques did not work well in the humid American climate, picking up wild yeasts from the air that turned beer bitter.During the 1840s and 1850s, German immigrants arrived with new brewing methods. They made a lager beer with heavy, sinking yeast that yielded a better brew. Beer gardens opened in the suburbs of large cities, attracting immigrants and native-born citizens alike. The brewing industry flourished during the Civil War with federal tax breaks and lucrative government contracts. Annual per capita consumption of beer more than doubled between 1870 and 1885. Meanwhile, hard liquor consumption continued to decline, and wine consumption remained negligible. By 1890, half the alcohol consumed in the United States was in the form of beer. What drove middle- class Americans into a campaign against beer was not only its foreign origin,but also its sale in the all-male saloon. While the middle classes saw saloons as dens of vice, average working men clung to the saloons and refused to abandon them. The saloon was a working-class institution, a meeting place of social community and political action. Indeed, saloons were the base for emerging immigrant political machines. The working class's autonomy and power expressed in the saloon drove the middle classes into determined, even violent and hysterical opposition to drinking houses.


By the 1870s, the temperance movement was in full swing with strong, organized groups providing dynamic leadership, such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. The organization and tactics of these groups would lead eventually to national prohibition in 1919. Even wine was condemned, although little was drunk. Most wine was imported, subject to tariff duties, and therefore expensive. Wine appeared regularly only at the tables of the wealthy. This did not inhibit, however, the development of a native wine-making industry. For two centuries failure met repeated efforts to grow the European wine-grape species vitis vinifera in the United States for commercial vinticulture. With native grapes, however, there were some successes, the most well known being the Catawba. German vintners from the Rhine Valley used the Catawba to make wine on the islands of Lake Erie and in the Ohio Valley. Nicholas Longworth, a Cincinnati lawyer, proved most successful, planting his first Catawba cuttings in that city in 1825. By 1842 he had 1,200 acres planted, and had produced the country's first sparkling wine. By the late 1850s, Ohio was the leading wine-making state, but disaster came shortly before the Civil War when the vines were destroyed by disease.

California had made wines before the Gold Rush, but it was not until the 1850s and 1860s that vitis vinifera would be successfully introduced and promoted by Agostin Haraszthy. Commercial viticulture of European grape varietals increased steadily until the 1870s when the dreaded phylloxera disease and a worldwide depression brought about a temporary setback. Following Europe's example, phylloxera in the United States was stamped out by grafting vinifera vines onto phylloxera-resistant eastern American vines. By the late 1890s, the quality of California wines had improved so much, they were taking prizes at international exhibitions, and competing with Europe for world markets. A more serious setback to the industry occurred with passage in 1919 of the Volstead Act, prohibiting the manufacture of alcoholic beverages in this country. Thirteen years of Prohibition virtually ruined the wine industry, and only about one hundred wineries survived in California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Missouri by legally making sacramental and medicinal wines, salted cooking wines, and grape juice.


By the 1880s, middle-class Americans enjoyed a high standard of living that enabled them to reshape their diet with new and previously exotic foods, such as bananas, oranges, tangerines, and pineapples. These foods helped change eating habits and led to new patterns of beverage consumption. For the first time, fruit-flavored soft drinks made with soda water became popular. Soda fountains flourished as never before. The simple fountains used before the Civil War were replaced by larger, more ornate ones made with marble and silver, and decorated with statues and architectural features. The Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia gave makers of soda water a tremendous boost. Not only was the summer of 1876 very hot, but the temperance forces had managed to ban the retail sale of hard liquors at the Exhibition. All the fountains at the fair did an enormous business, and those who drank at them publicized soda water throughout the country.

Everyone could afford soda water. Lemon was the most popular soda water flavor, followed by strawberry, pineapple, vanilla, and ginger, but other flavors proliferated wildly. Charles E. Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist, had enormous success with his, root beer, which became advertised as "The National Temperance Drink." Extracts of coca and cola were first marketed as flavors in soft drinks in the 1880s, and both Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola were bottled and marketed in the 1890s. At the dinner table Americans preferred water, milk, or coffee. Water even became a cult beverage among some anti-liquor groups. On a warm summer's day, it was proper for the middle-class American to squeeze an imported lemon, stir in newly available white sugar, add a bit of ice and water, and serve lemonade.

James W. Tufts.
Descriptive Catalogue of James W. Tufts' Arctic Soda Water Apparatus. Boston: James W. Tufts, 1875.

American Soda Fountain Co.
American Soda Book of Receipts and Suggestions, Containing about 1000 Choice Formulas for making Soda, Water Syrups and Fancy Drinks; Together with Valuable Hints on Installing and Operating a Successful Soda Fountain. Boston: American Soda Fountain Co. [ca. 1910].

A. D. Puffer & Sons.
Catalogue of Puffer's Frigid Soda and Mineral Water Apparatus. . . Boston: A. D. Puffer & Sons, 1879.

John Adlum (1759-1836).
A Memoir on the Cultivation of the Vine in America, and the Best Mode of Making Wine. Washington: Davis and Force, 1823.

Robert Buchanan.
A Treatise on the Cultivation of the Grape in Vineyards, by a Member of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society. Cincinnati: Wright, Ferris & Company, 1850.

George Husmann (1827-1902).
The Cultivation of the Native Grape, and Manufacture of American Wines. New York: Geo. E. & F. W. Woodward, 1866.

Sutter Home Wine & Distilling Co., San Francisco, Cal.
"A Western Favorite", proof of a chromolithographic advertisement. San Francisco: Bachrach & Cordes, 1905.

In 1842, Captain John Augustus Sutter, the Swiss adventurer turned empire builder, began distilling brandy out of wild grapes in his fort at Sacramento, which he named New Helvetia. Ruined instead of enriched by the discovery of gold in 1848 at his Coloma sawmill (the famous Sutter's Mill), Sutter gave up his fort and moved to his 600-acre Hock Farm on the Feather River in Sutter County eight miles south of Yuba City. There he planted a vineyard with cuttings he imported from Europe. Sutter's vineyard helped support him until he left California in 1866. The Sutter Home Winery was founded in 1890 on Howell Mountain in the Napa Valley by Captain Sutter's cousin, also named John Sutter, but was moved in 1906 to its present location in Napa County near St. Helena. Since 1947, the winery has been owned and operated by the Trinchero family, who gave a tremendous boost to their business and to the American wine industry by popularizing white Zinfandel wines. The image remains reversed in this proof state.

Samuel M'Harry.
The Practical Distiller: Or An Introduction to Making Whiskey, Gin, Brandy, Spirits. Harrisburgh, Penn.: John Wyeth, 1809.

Treadwell & Co., Inc., San Francisco, Cal.
"The Last Stand in the Circle," proof of a chromolithographic advertisement. San Francisco: Bachrach & Cordes [ca. 1900].

Manufacturers of hard liquor often made use of adventurous, daring, and heroic imagery to promote their products. Western manufacturers were particularly partial to western themes, as in this especially gruesome scene depicting Treadwell Whiskey's sustaining power in the face of all odds at Custer's disastrous final engagement at Little Big Horn, Wyoming. The image remains reversed in this proof state.

Harry Craddock.
The Savoy Cocktail Book. New York: Richard R. Smith, 1930.

George Ehret (1835-1927).
Hell Gate Lager Beer Brewery, 1866-1891. [New York: s.n., ca. 1890]. 6 volumes.

Joseph Coppinger.
The American Practical Brewer and Tanner. New York: Van Winkle and Wiley, 1815.

Gallus Thomann.
The Effects of Beer Upon Those Who Make and Drink It: A Statistical Sketch. New York: The United States Brewers' Association, 1886.

From The True History of Deacon Giles' Distillery. Reported for the Benefit of Posterity by George Barrell Cheever (1807-1890). New York, 1844. Woodcut Print.

In February 1835 a Salem, Massachusetts, minister, George B. Cheever published an article in the Salem Landmark, entitled "Inquire at Amos Giles' Distillery," in which he detailed his "dream which was not all a dream" about a demonic distillery operated by a church deacon. Although it was a fictional polemic, Cheever was successfully sued for libel by a local deacon who did own a distillery. This woodcut image of demons at work in Deacon Giles's establishment, with "a little counting-room in one corner of the distillery where he sold Bibles, is from a reprint of the original article with an account of the libel trial. The introduction to this work states that "In his defence[sic], Mr. Cheever showed that, while it was no part of his object to defame, vilify, or injure the character of any particular distiller whatever, . . . he had a right, and it was his duty to show in the most forcible manner in his power the horrid business of distillation. " Rev. Cheever was sentenced to thirty days in jail and fined one thousand dollars.

[Richard Hildreth (1807-1865).]
The Boston Opposition to the New Law for the Suppression of Rum Shops and Grog Shops. Boston: Perkins & Marvin, 1838.

Henry William Blair (1834-1920).
The Temperance Movement: Or, the Conflict Between Man and Alcohol. Boston: W. E. Smythe, 1888.

Presbyterian Board of Temperance.
Relation of Drink to Crime. Pittsburgh: Presbyterian Board of Temperance [ca. 1913].

The temperance movement had an early beginning in the United States. A few tentative steps were taken during the eighteenth century, but in the nineteenth century a drive against excessive drinking had momentum and mass support and leaders who were strident and demanding, intimidating legislators and establishing new rules for American behavior. The temperance movement grew rapidly, especially in the northeast. In 1833 the local, state, and regional organizations formed the American Temperance Union, which within a few years claimed a million and a half members. The movement of the early nineteenth century made public drinking less acceptable generally and restricted access to liquor in many states, but did not succeed in its efforts to eradicate alcohol production and consumption. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union, founded in the 1870s, became the most powerful middle- class woman's organization in the United States. Every social ill of modern, industrial, urban society was blamed on strong drink. By the early twentieth century the temperance movement was an unstoppable force that brought the country to universal prohibition in 1919.

Wunder Brewing Co., San Francisco, Cal.
"Wunder for Quality," proof of a chromolithographic advertisement. San Francisco: Bachrach & Cordes [ca. 1900].

The temperance movement equated alcohol consumption with the deterioration of American life, and depicted saloons as dens of evil and vice. The alcohol beverage industry, however, made use of these negative conceptions to their advertising advantage, such as this brothel scene as an advertisement for beer. The image remains reversed in this proof state.

Presbyterian Board of Temperance.
Is this Liberty? Pittsburgh: Presbyterian Board of Temperance [ca. 1915].

Temperance propaganda poster depicting legal support for alcohol consumption and the institution of the saloon as leading ultimately to final destruction of the national fabric. The imagery draws significantly on the contemporary notion of the demise of Roman civilization caused by state-supported depravity.

Jessica Southard Parker (b. 1873). Journal, 1909-1911. Volume 7.

This volume of Jessica Parker's journal includes numerous entries relating bridal and wedding dinners, dinner parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, and this account of a visit to the Cafe Martin in New York: "Wed. evening we had a little plunge into Bohemian life, which was deeply resented by one of the waiters at Cafe Martin owing to our temperance principles. In such places they have no use for such modest customers. The table d'hote however was delicious."


Eating is a ritual activity, invested with special meaning in all cultures. The distinctive ways in which different peoples eat express their attitudes toward their physical bodies, their social relationships, and their sense of the larger cultural order. In uncovering those attitudes, we may reveal aspects of a culture that are in other respects less obvious. At the same time no single ritual or set of rituals, particularly in a pluralistic culture such as that of nineteenth century America, can lay bare the innermost meanings of a people. Instead, what secular as well as religious rituals characteristically do is allow participants to negotiate and articulate, in heightened form, elements of their experience that are to some degree in conflict or suppressed in everyday life.

The efforts of writers on etiquette and other promoters of civility in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America must be viewed in the larger context of society's concern for establishing order and authority in a restless, highly mobile, rapidly urbanizing and industrializing democracy. American etiquette advisors acknowledged the special need for a culture of civility and an established code of manners in this fluid and egalitarian society. The social rituals they prescribed offered a means not only for social discipline, but also for social mobility. The publication of etiquette manuals was prolific in the nineteenth century, with an average of three new titles appearing annually in the antebellum period, and five or six a year between 1870 and World War One. Etiquette manuals were published intentionally for a broad American audience and were part of a larger democratization of gentility in the United States.

Nowhere was this transformation more sweeping than in the conduct of dining in the middle-class household. Refinement at the Victorian-American able was often painstakingly acquired because it had less to do with eating than it did with social order. The bodily symbolism involved in Victorian table manners also had broad social dimensions. By promoting practices of refined dining, the ritual structure of dining etiquette mediated between contending needs that were central to the maintenance of social order: between individual appetite and communal order, bodily satisfaction and social modesty, egalitarianism and hierarchy, public and private.

Table manners emerged as the supreme test of refinement, character, and "good-breeding." In fashionable society, proper deportment at table was the great initiation ritual. The vulgar and inept, the thoughtless and greedy, as well as parvenus and social counterfeits, all risked exposure in any of the myriad possible violations of proper etiquette in the course of a meal. Every aspect of a dining event had a carefully prescribed procedure: the invitation and response, the manner of dress, the arrival, the responsibilities of the hosts and guests, pre-dinner etiquette and entering the dining room, proper seating arrangements, food handling and the use of utensils, the deportment of servants, dinner conversation, after-dinner etiquette and departure, and finally the follow-up. The rituals of polite Victorian dining sought to elevate and protect the individual dignity and self-possession of all participants. They promoted the virtues of mutual respect, tact, and self-restraint. Adopting and refining the ceremonial forms of the nobility, advocates of polite dining insisted upon their special relevance in a democracy: if individuals were to be masterless, it was all the more essential that they be masters of themselves. In Victorian table manners and especially in the conduct of the formal dinner, there was great effort to maintain social order and hierarchy through the ritual structure of dining.

These forms of high ritual dining persisted into the early twentieth century, but with the social upheaval and fragmentation that accompanied the opening decades of the new century, such formal constructs appeared anachronistic to the generation following the First World War. In her whimsical 1928 commentary on contemporary manners, How to Behave--Though a Debutante, Emily Post has her youthful character Muriel exclaim, "Really, I'm getting fed up with this continual criticism about the behavior of me and my friends, because we think most rules of etiquette perfectly antique--and collecting antiques is no thrill to us at all."

The Illustrated Manners Book, a Manual of Good Behavior and Polite Accomplishment. New York: Leland, Clay & Co., 1855.
From the collection of Mrs. Thomas M. Scruggs and Margaret Cook.

While prescriptive table etiquette has had a long tradition, Victorian America developed elaborate dining rituals reflecting the contemporary social trend toward rigid control and hierarchy. As social etiquette became more convoluted, etiquette manuals became essential to help navigate the social rituals. Despite the prominence of the temperance movement, alcoholic beverages at the dinner table were not popular. In fact strong drink was avoided in most circumstances by the majority of Americans. Wine and beer were a staple of European dining, however, so that the subject of such beverages at formal dinners could not be avoided. Here, the chapter on dining etiquette opens with a statement of neutrality on the treatment of alcohol at the table, while at the same time inferring agreement with its condemnation.

Irma S. Rombauer (1877-1962).
The Joy of Cooking. St. Louis: A. C. Clayton Printing Co., 1931.

The first edition of Irma Rombauer's kitchen icon was privately printed in 1931 and distributed from her home. It became an instant success and was greatly enlarged in 1943. It was illustrated and tested by her daughter Marion Rombauer Becker, who continued to revise and enlarge this all-purpose cookbook, which remains a bestselling American classic. Irma Rombauer pursued cooking as an avocation, and her approach in Joy of Cooking remains the core of its popularity today: "I have attempted to make palatable dishes with simple means and to lift everyday cooking out of the commonplace. In spite of the fact that the book is compiled with an eye to the family purse and the other on the bathroom scale, there are, of course, occasional lapses into indulgence."

Dinner Program. To Honorable Israel W. Durham, Dinner Given by the 10th Ward Republican Executive Committee, Feb. 9th, 1903. State Fencibles Armory, Philadelphia.

Menus, whether handwritten or printed, were a standard part of all formal dinners; the more elaborate the occasion, the more elaborate the menu. This dinner program consists of a menu, a list of toast givers, the Executive Committee members, and a list of participants. The meals at formal dinners were of monumental proportions, and this dinner for Israel W. Durham was no exception. The menu is also typical of the progression of courses for a formal dinner: 1. Oysters served with Sauterne and Latour Blanche; 2. Celery and Olives; 3. Turtle soup served with amontillado sherry; 4. Shad with cucumbers and Bermuda potatoes; 5. Hot-house spring chicken with french peas and mushrooms; 6. Punch (to clear the palate for the courses to follow); 7. Salted almonds and pecans; 8. Terrapin served with champagne; 9. Asparagus salad and French salad; 10. Ice cream and water ice; 11. Cakes; 12. Coffee served with cigars, cognac, creme de menthe, and soda water.

Elizabeth Fries Ellet (1818-1877).
The New Cyclopaedia of Domestic Economy, and Practical Housekeeper. Norwich, Conn.: The Henry Bill Publishing Company, 1873.

One third of this Cyclopaedia is devoted to recipes. There are many separate chapters, however, that focus on various aspects of food, dining, and entertaining, including "The Store-Room and Marketing," "Servants,""Plates, Cutlery, House-linens," "Laying out Tables and Folding Napkins," "Culinary Utensils," and "Cookery as an Art." While the focus is on American practice, more attention is given to European styles, since by the 1870s European-style restaurants had attained a certain vogue in American metropolitan centers: "The French having so much the advantage of us, it is as well to learn something of their boasted art." Ellet also claims to publish for the first time several recipes from such celebrated New York restaurants as Delmonico's and Taylor's.

Louis Henry Gibson.
Beautiful Houses; A Study in House-Building. New York: T. Y. Crowell [1895].

A major concern for architects and plan book writers of the late nineteenth century was to make running the house more efficient and economical. Catering to this interest, architect Louis H. Gibson argued that careful planning would make housekeeping easier. The average housekeeper, he asserted, was overworked. Given the hectic daily schedule, Gibson suggested that the dining room have certain practical features: it should be at least thirteen feet wide and fifteen feet long, with a pass-through pantry, a high window, and a sideboard placed at the end of the room nearest the entrance to the kitchen and the china closet. Gibson also stressed the artistic potential of the dining room, arguing that a beautiful house not only gave pleasure to all who saw it, but was also a source of education to the occupants. Because the dining room served as the place of assembly for the family, it was usually the only room where the family as a whole regularly spent time together. Hence it was to be attractive and restful.

[Robert W. Shoppell].
How to Build, Furnish, and Decorate. New York: The Cooperative Building Plan Association, 1883.
Gift in memory of Samuel Moyerman

By the 1880s, the ideal of the artistic middle-class house had become extremely popular. According to the plan-book writers, the extra time spent in decorating the middle-class home was well worth it, because artistic achievement was a sign of a more sophisticated and civilized outlook. The author of this popular 1883 plan book argues that, despite what by today's standards might appear to be rather complex and ornate decorations, the dining room should be supplied with "plain, substantial, and homely" kinds of furniture, restrained wall papers, and functional buffets. His emphasis on the unity of design and an aesthetic that praised art for art's sake was part of a redirection in American artistic standards between the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition and the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

Frances Trollope (1780-1863).
Domestic Manners of the Americans. London: Whittaker, Treacher & Co., 1832. 2 volumes.

The gibes by contemporary European travellers about American bumptiousness and vulgarity, such as Trollope's notorious critique of the Domestic Manners of the Americans, rankled domestic readers because, however overdrawn, they could not be easily dismissed. Many foreign visitors believed, Trollope among them, that American egalitarianism simply fomented a culture of coarse familiarity and rudeness, particularly at the dining table.

How to Behave A Pocket Manual of Republican Etiquette, and Guide to Correct Personal Habits.... New York: Fowler and Wells, 1857. "Hand-Books for Home Improvement"--No. III.

A Manual of Politeness.... Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co.
Gift of Esther I. Schwartz

Morrisons' Stranger's Guide and Etiquette, for Washington City and its Vicinity. Washington: W. H. & 0. H. Morrison, 1862.
Gift of Mrs. Henry Cadot

Washington D. C. has always had its own unique culture and rules of conduct. This slim volume was written "not so much . . . to present a dissertation upon the laws of polite society in general, as to supply strangers with the more important conventional rules which regulate social and official intercourse at the Seat of Government." The author's emphasis is not so much on the social rituals peculiar to the federal capital, as on the degree of difference between European and American models of etiquette: "Good breeding is a phrase of English origin, and literally implies ancient descent, or aristocratic lineage, as well as good manners.... It assumes that high birth necessarily implies politeness and refinement; but the common sense of mankind has come to regard the thing signified as the essential, and the figure is forgotten or disregarded. This is especially true in America, where the sentiment of Burns that 'Rank is but the guinea's stamp,' has perhaps a more practical acceptance than in any other portion of the world. In this age, however, even in Europe, the character of the gentleman is measured, not by the extent of his paternal estate, or by the length of his pedigree, but by his moral and intellectual worth and good manners."

Eliza Leslie (1787-1858).
The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners; or, Miss Leslie's Behaviour Book. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson & Brothers, 1864.

Eliza Leslie was a prolific writer of books and articles on cooking and behavior, and a regular contributor to Godey's Lady's Book. Her first publication, Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats, appeared in 1837. Rather than being concerned with domestic etiquette, this posthumous expansion of her 1853 The Behaviour Book focusses on appropriate conduct in polite society outside the home, and includes an entire chapter on the hotel dinner.

Wesley R. Andrews.
The American Code of Manners. New York: W. R. Andrews, 1880.

Some etiquette books were directed to specific audiences, such as children, young men or women, bachelors, but most addressed a general audience. The author of the American Code of Manners, a columnist for the popular magazine The American Queen, declared that she wrote her books in response to letters "from young ladies in the West and East; from young housekeepers who are beginning, far from great cities, the first arduous attempts at dinner-giving; from young men who are rising in the world, and who are beginning to aspire toward that knowledge of society from which they have been debarred by a youth of industry; from elderly people, to whom fortune has come late, but whose children begin to wish to know how to take their place in the gay world."

Eliza Leslie (1787-1858).
The House Book: or, A Manual of Domestic Economy. Philadelphia: Carey & Hart, 1840.

In her chapter on dining rooms, Eliza Leslie includes a lengthy discussion on the proper deportment of servants at the dining table.

Gustav Stickley (1858-1942).
Craftsman Houses: A Book for Home-Makers. New York: The Craftsman Publishing Co., 1913.

Samuel Sloan (1815-1884). The Model Architect: A Series of Original Designs for Cottages, Villas, Suburban Residences, etc.... Philadelphia: E. S. Jones & Company [1852]. 2 volumes.

Samuel Sloan (1815-1884).
City and Suburban Architecture. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott [1859].

Mary Simmerson Cunningham Logan (1838-1923).
Will Carleton (1845-1912)
William Mathews (1818-1909)
Helen Alice Mathews Nitsch (d. 1889).

The Home Manual. Everybody's Guide in Social, Domestic, and Business Life. Chicago, etc.: H. J. Smith & Co. [1889].

Diners were expected to demonstrate their own refinement, self-control, and subordination to the social gathering by guarding against disruptions of all sorts. They regulated emotional displays as rigorously as they did their bodies avoiding both extremes of sadness and boisterous laughter. Diners were encouraged not simply to fall silent but to engage in conversation while eating, keeping table talk light and steering away from heated discussions and heavy or abstruce topics. In The Home Manual, the editors present a model conversation between two guests of opposite sexes at a dinner party.

Scribner's Monthly, Volume VIII. Scribner & Co., September 1874.

The monthly feature department "Home and Society" was Scribner's etiquette advice column. In this issue the column deals with such subjects as "Breakfast, Socially Considered" and "Table Customs." In "Table Customs" it is inferred that the rules of etiquette were necessary to provide the social discipline that the "well-bred" possessed instinctively.

Palliser, Palliser & Company, Architects, New York.
Palliser's Model Homes. New York: Palliser, Palliser & Company [1883]

Emily Post (1873-1960).
How to Behave Though a Debutante. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Duran & Company, 1928.

The social upheavals following the First World War heralded a shift away from the grand formality of nineteenth-century etiquette. In this whimsical commentary on contemporary manners, Emily Post's debutante narrator, Muriel, states that "we think most rules of etiquette perfectly antique." The youthful Muriel has very definite views concerning the formal dinner: "Of course, in my opinion, a crested and engraved dinner invitation calls for instant refusal--unless it has the life-saving word "Dancing" in the lower corner, and unless you know that the dinner is almost sure to be served at little tables, and you know also that the tables will be seated under the direction of one of ourselves. But the regulation dinner party. . . well, how anybody can go to one and call it pleasure, I can't understand.... I mean it takes twice as long to get through. At least, it does for me.... Because, at my dinners, not only will smoking have every encouragement, but so will taking a nap. After all, it would be much better for those tired men who have been working all day to eat quickly and sleep peacefully while the food dawdlers are engrossed in bone-hunting or pit- prodding or letting their plates stand untouched while they finish the story."

James Dabney McCabe (1842-1883).
The National Encyclopedia of Business and Social Forms. Philadelphia: National Publishing Co., 1884.


Although nearly all American meals at the beginning of the nineteenth century were created in the home kitchen, more and more people found it necessary,convenient, or pleasurable to dine out. The most luxurious dining, although not always the best, was found in the large hotels of a few major cities. While the modern hotel had existed in America since the 1790s, the era of the luxury hotel did not begin until 1829 when the Tremont House opened in Boston, followed soon after in the 1830s by the elegant Astor House in New York City. For some time the hotels continued the custom of the earlier inns by giving everyone set meals, all paid for by the guests whether eaten or not, and served at long tables at fixed hours. The entire meal was place on the table at once,and the guests helped themselves. Not until the 1830s did the larger eastern hotels bring some degree of order and pace by offering their table d'hote meals in courses. Some of the larger hotels discarded the fixed courses in favor of menus from which each guest ordered separately. This became a general feature at major hotels by the 1850s. French cuisine was particularly favored in these establishments, although a number of hotels were openly American in their offerings.

Some city restaurants equaled or excelled the great hotels as centers of good cooking. Two in New York City created a certain awe among all but the most sophisticated. Taylor's flourished during the 1850s and was ostentatious in appearance. Less showy, but more concerned with good cooking was Delmonico's, founded in the 1820s, a restaurant that for almost a century was to be the great example of culinary excellence. A growing number of city restaurants sprang up to serve midday meals to businessmen. Particularly favored were the numerous oyster saloons that existed in all the principal towns and cities. For travellers, meals could be found on canalboats, steamboats, and railroads, although the last was slow in finding a satisfactory means of feeding their passengers without making periodic stops.

By the last decades of the nineteenth century there were eating places everywhere, tailored to meet the tastes and pocketbooks of most Americans. Those who wished to dine in luxury still went to the large city hotels, such as Young's Hotel and the Parker House in Boston; the Hoffman House, Savoy, Plaza, and Waldorf in New York City; the Sherman House, Grand Pacific, Tremont House, and Palmer House in Chicago, the St. Charles in New Orleans; the Southern Hotel in St. Louis; the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Resort areas such as Saratoga Springs, Long Branch, and Atlantic City had other luxury hotels with fine restaurants. Delmonico's remained the most elegant, expensive, and best restaurant in the country. Late in the century oyster bars were supplemented by more elaborate "lobster palaces," and many foreign restaurants became popular during this time. The food provided to stagecoach and railroad travellers showed uneven improvement. In 1868 the Pullman Company built the first dining car to take the modern form of a restaurant on wheels. It began service on the Chicago and Alton Railroad and was named the Delmonico. Fred Harvey started his string of famous eating-house depots along the Santa Fe line in 1876.

The early twentieth century saw great changes in American domestic life that drew people out of their homes and kept them out: the automobile, women in the workforce, the rise of social clubs, and a range of city diversions, such as the movies and the theater. Wealthy New Yorkers went to Delmonico's, Sherry's, the Savarin, Martin's, Robbins, or to the Waldorf-Astoria and Brevoort hotels. The Colony opened in 1922, and about the same time Sardi's became a rendezvous of theater people. During prohibition there were "speakeasy" restaurants of which the Twenty-One Club was the most famous for its meals. Foreign restaurants grew in number, diversity, and popularity, with Chinese cuisine making the greatest gains. Cafeterias and diners, both invented in the 1890s, grew in popularity, and in 1925 Howard Johnson opened his first restaurant. This period also saw the rise of great American standards--the hot dog, hamburger, and hero--and the founding of the first modern fast food stands, such as Nathan's and White Castle. Soda fountains also changed their appearance in the early twentieth century, and by the 1920s the drugstore soda fountain, with its service counters and ice-cream wells, had become a national institution.


Menus were standard features of the formal dinner, whether handwritten for an occasion at a private home, or printed for a meal at a commercial dining establishment. While serving as a program for the meal's itinerary, menus could also be retained as keepsakes of the occasion. More elaborate dinners had printed programs that included a menu, a list of participants, and a list of toast givers (occasionally with the printed text of the toast).

The meals at formal dinners were often of monumental proportions. This remained true even when, by the turn of the century, etiquette advisers were noting that meals were no longer as large as previously. To give formality, dignity and order to the occasion, the meal proceeded in a strict and stately progression, with each dish served as a course in itself. These courses mounted in scale and importance from the relatively simple, light, and uncooked to the richer and more lavishly prepared.

The meal began, typically, with raw oysters and champagne. Then a choice of a white or brown soup and poured sherry was offered. Then fish with Chablis. Next an entree, such as asparagus or sweet corn. Then a slice of roast (with claret and champagne). After that, perhaps a punch to freshen the palate for the courses to follow: some kind of game; salad; cheese pastry or pudding; ices and sweet dishes. Then liqueurs. Then fruit with sherry or claret. Then a selection of nuts, raisins, and sugar plums. Finally, the meal ended with wine, liqueurs, cognac, and cigars. Advisors recommended a well modulated pace. They allowed a maximum of two hours even for a formal dinner, and recommended an hour or ninety minutes.

Jessica Southard Parker (b. 1873).
Journals, 1899-1916. 9 volumes.

Jessica Southard Parker of Belmont, Massachusetts, maintained a meticulous, though sometimes sporadic, account of her daily activities for seventeen years. She not only wrote detailed entries, but also included photographs, theater programs, dinner invitations, menus, postcards, and other memorabilia, creating a kind of scrapbook diary.

Menu from the Cataract and International Hotels Company, Niagara Falls, New York.

The Parker family visited Niagara Falls in late July 1903. Along with the menu and her diary entry, Jessica Parker has included photographs of the Falls area and of relatives they were visiting. The back of the menu bears the following announcement: "Guests of this hotel are cordially invited to visit the Natural Food Conservatory and to witness the interesting process of manufacture of Shredded Whole Wheat Biscuits. "

Dinner program for the Seventh Annual Dinner of the Members by Inheritance of the Massachusetts Commandary of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and One Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Abraham Lincoln Friday Evening February Twelfth [1909] Young's Hotel, Boston.

At this dinner, Jessica Parker's husband Torrance, a Boston lawyer, stood in for the absent toastmaster. Jessica Parker, who was not at the event, believes her husband was given this honor because of a paper he had presented a week before. On the opposite page, Jessica Parker has included an announcement of the meeting at which the paper was delivered.

Menu. Dinner in honour of Sir Michael Herbert by the Pilgrims of the United States on Monday, the twenty-fifth of May One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Three at Delmonico's.

Oscar Tschirky.
The Cook Book, by "Oscar" of the Waldorf. Chicago, New York: The Saalfield Publishing Co. 1896.

Grand Atlantic Hotel, Atlantic City, N.J. NewYork: South Publishing Co., 1897.

Hotel Somerset, Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mass. Boston: Hotel Somerset [ca. 1900].

Max Kuhn.
All Happy; A Hint from Mr Max Kuhn, Chief Controller of the Waldorf-Astoria, Concerning a Method of Keeping Everybody Happy Who is Engaged in the Conduct of a Hotel, Cafe, or Restaurant. New York: [Wynkoop, Hallenbeck, Crawford Co.] 1905.

Jessica Southard Parker (b. 1873).
Journal, 1899-1901. Volume 1.

Jessica Parker was an inveterate theater goer, and in addition to the personal reviews she recorded in her journals, she also included the programs for almost every performance she attended. This program for the performances of More Than Queen includes advertisements for eateries of interest to the theater crowds, such as The Sea Grill ("After the theater try broiled live lobster and musty ale), the Philadelphia Ice Cream Co., and Weber's, "Ladies' and Gentlemen's Restaurant. "

Lehigh Valley Railroad Dining Car Service.
Breakfast Menu. [New York, ca. 1900].

In addition to what we would consider average breakfast fare--fruit, cereals, eggs, bacon, hash browns, coffee--this dining car service also offered a range of broiled or grilled fish, steaks, chicken, lamb and mutton. The menu also includes a full list of imported and domestic wines, beers, liquors, waters, cigars, and cigarettes, and warns the traveller: "no wines or liquors sold on Sunday."

Palace Hotel, San Francisco, Cal.
"Banquet under the auspices of Commercial Organizations of the State of California celebrating the opening of the Palace Hotel and the rehabilitation of the City of San Francisco." December 15, 1909.

The Palace Hotel originally opened in 1875 and immediately became the center for stylish entertainment. The Palace grill room was considered the leading restaurant on the West Coast and its first chef, Jules Harder, was considered the region's authority on food, having been at the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga, the Union Club in New York City, and finally at Delmonico's for ten years.

The great earthquake of April 18, 1906, together with the sweeping fire that followed, all but destroyed the city. The city was quickly rebuilt, and this banquet program commemorates that effort and the opening of the new Palace Hotel.

A Description of Tremont House: With Architectural Illustrations. Boston: Gray and Bowe, 1830.

The Tremont House opened in Boston in 1829, heralding the era of the luxury hotel. With its granite facade, 170 bedrooms, ten large public rooms with marble floors, and other innovations, the Tremont House set a new standard of elegance. The Tremont began the tradition in America of offering its table d'hote meals in courses, bringing some degree of order and pace to the hotel dinner. The Tremont House also drilled its waiters to serve each course with elaborate military precision, making the serving of meals a memorable event.

Pennsylvania Lines Dining Car Service.
Breakfast Menu. Pittsburgh, 1904.

The Pennsylvania Lines' breakfast menu also offered a broad range of fish, meat, and chicken, and a full list of wines, beers, liquors, and waters. All meals were one dollar.

New York Paisance....: An Illustrated Series of New York Places of Amusement. No. 1, 1908. New York: Henry Irking.

This inaugural issue of New York Plaisance includes detailed descriptions and images of the ostentatious "Roman Garden" dining rooms of Murray's Restaurant at the corner of Broadway and Forty-second Street, designed by Henry Erkins.

Charles Green Shaw.
Nightlife, by Charles G. Shaw; Decorated by Raymond Bret- Koch. Vanity Fair's Intimate Guide to New York After Dark. New York: The John Day Co. [1931].
Gift in Memory of Judge Paul Leahy

A comprehensive review of New York's restaurants, chophouses, roadhouses, night clubs, dance halls, and speakeasies at the height of Prohibition.


Back to Special Collections Home Page

This page is maintained by Special Collections

Last modified: 12/21/10
  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014