The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections contains significant archives and collections on the history agriculture, wine, food science, nutrition, sustainability, home economics, along with the marketing and advertising of food, drink, and kitchen equipment.
In addition to papers in the Eastern Wine and Grape Archive, examples include: the papers of food critic Duncan Hines [ca. 1939-1959]; the records of the Western New York Fruit Growers Cooperative Packing Association, 1920-1953; the Edgett-Burnham canning company records, 1854-1930; the records of Cornell’s Department of Food and Nutrition, 1943-1968; hundreds of oral histories by regional agricultural growers; the records of Cornell’s Cooperative Extension office; and the records of the New York State College of Home Economics.
The Nahum (Nach) Waxman Collection of Food and Culinary Trade Cards offers hundreds of 19th century advertising trade cards, tracing the history and marketing of food, beverages, cookery, agriculture, kitchen equipment, and more. And multiple archival collections contain advertising, trade catalogs, and direct mail marketing materials on food, wine, cooking, kitchen equipment, and entertaining.
The Rare and Manuscript Division also features an extensive collection of restaurant menus – more than 10,000 and growing. These restaurant and banquet menus provide researchers with a rich source of information on the manners and food habits of earlier eras. The first deposit of what would become a constellation of menu collections at Cornell was assembled by Oscar Tschirky (1866-1943), known throughout the world as Oscar of the Waldorf. As maitre d’hotel of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City from 1893 to 1943, Oscar began a lifelong hobby of collecting menus, some of which were for functions he himself arranged, but most of which he gathered for their historical, gastronomic, or artistic interest. Upon his death, his menu collection, papers, and personal memorabilia were donated to Cornell University. Dozens of additional menu collections have arrived in the decades since, adding to Oscar’s original collection. The menu collections now span from the 1850s to the present day.