February 2014


Historic Menus
Like most ephemeral items, menus conjure memories of time well spent. But they also suggest the potential for new and sometimes fantasy-like experiences. The menus in the CHS Collection provide examples of both.
In an online piece celebrating Taschen’s publication of Jim Heinmann’s book Menu Design in America, Eduardo Santiago observes that “illustrations on the cover of a menu told customers what the place promised.” Coppa’s Neptune Palace offered its patrons the opportunity to dine under the sea, while Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber evoked exotic dinners on tropical islands in the South Seas.
Certainly menus are important keepsakes, but they are also valuable for the cultural and historical information they hold, the political and economic influences on eating habits they demonstrate, and the food preparation techniques and trends they reveal. The Los Angeles Mexican café Casa La Golondrina, located in the city’s first brick house built on historic Olvera Street, encouraged its patrons to recall California’s earlier days. The small print at the bottom of its 1945-era menu, adjacent to an image of a couple dancing in traditional Mexican dress, notifies diners: “In striving to maintain the traditions of Early California, we do not allow ladies dancing in slacks or men in shirt sleeves.”

Another example: Our current food trend of locally reared and grass-fed meats is typically printed on many of the menus we see today, but a 1921 menu from Marcell states the restaurant’s market conditions: “Cattle: Mostly grass feed, fancy steer only fair. Fancy Lamb. Milkfeed veal (from Marcell’s Ranch).” 
Digitizing-History 2   Juana-Exhibition-Window 2   Softball League
California Past & Present(ly) Processed

Many of CHS's historic menus from across California can be viewed on the CHS Commons on Flickr, but the real resource is the finding aid. CHS archivist Jaime Henderson writes about her work with ephemera collections, including menus, for the CHS Blog.

In this bilingual exhibition about the life and times of Juana Briones (1802–1889) - pioneer, founder, healer - we experience the transformation of California under three flags: Spain, Mexico, and the United States. Through the social, economic, political, and legal upheavals of nineteenth-century California we glimpse how women of Mexican and Spanish descent influenced our state's history on a wide-ranging yet distinctively human scale.
  Digitizing History - Softball in san francisco

For the first time, in 1974, the Gay Community Softball League played a game against a team from the San Francisco Police Department at James P. Lang Field in the Western Addition. 

This film, composed of two reels of Super 8mm film, was digitized through the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP)
Email us Follow on Twitter Connect on Facebook View on Flickr Read on Blogger California Historical Society
678 Mission Street
San Francisco
CA 94105
415.357.1848 voice
415.357.1850 fax
Gallery + Store
Tuesday – Sunday
11:00am to 5:00pm
Wednesday – Friday
1:00pm to 5:00pm
Monday – Friday
9:00am to 5:00pm