From the pickled relish known as chow chow and Mother’s doughnuts offered at the Third Annual Supper of the New England Society at Vilas House in Madison (1868), the Sweetbreads in Cases-- Toulouse and Thistle Punch served by the Milwaukee Curlers’ Club (1895), to the Kimchi Potato Pancakes and locally grown oats, fruit, and coconut milk steamed in lotus leaves offered at a benefit breakfast held by the Dane County Farmers’ Market (2014), the foods we eat present a tempting portrait of our culinary preferences and priorities. The Wisconsin Historical Society’s ephemera holdings include a wide range of menus (mid-1800s to the present day) from restaurants and hotels; schools; specialized organizations and societies; private homes; and menus for special occasions such as commemorative and farewell dinners; trade conferences; political events; and meals offered during transit, such as passenger ships and trains.
This Menu Collection complements the Image Gallery: A Wisconsin Historical Society Menu Sampler and offers users additional features such as full-text keyword searches of printed menus, zoomable pages, and Page Flip view, which simulates the experience of viewing all text pages of the menu as if one were flipping through the pages of a paper menu. While still in development, the Menu Collection will eventually include a greater number of menus than the Image Gallery, including a number of menus that are primarily text-based.
In some instances, the Wisconsin Historical Society does not hold the physical menu but presents a digital surrogate of the originals which were loaned to us to include in the digital collection. These menus are noted in the Original Collection field as “Private Collection” whereas menus from WHS holdings will reference the call number in this field. To see WHS original items, as well as other menus whose format was not suitable for digital capture, visit the Archives Reading Room.
Rights and Permissions
In many cases, it is difficult to determine who was responsible for creating a particular menu. In addition to the artist(s) who may have drawn an illustration used on the menu, to the layout artist or printer who often remains uncredited, menu design and creation was the work of many hands. The Wisconsin Historical Society does not hold the copyright to most of the materials in its collections. The menus presented here are offered under the terms of fair use for non-profit educational purposes, but researchers must determine if their own use of the materials requires further negotiation with actual copyright holders. If you believe that you hold copyright for any materials presented here, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.