Food, Wine & Culinary History

Food advertisement.
From Cornell Library's food advertising collections.

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections offers outstanding research materials on the history of wine, food, agriculture, cookery, gastronomy, and restaurants. Prominent among Cornell's food history collections are: an assemblage of thousands of rare books on wine, cookery, and food production and consumption from the 15th century to the present; The Eastern Wine and Grape Archive, dedicated to preserving the history of the grape growing and wine production industry East of the Mississippi; and collections preserving more than 10,000 restaurant, banquet, airline, and ship menus from the 1850s to the present.

Other materials relevant to the study of food history include: early hand-written recipe books and household manuals; 18th century French pamphlets on food supply and distribution published during the Revolutionary period; collections of ephemera such as advertising broadsides and sales catalogs promoting food, beverages, kitchen and farming equipment, and cooking utensils. Substantial archival collections on agriculture, nutrition, food science, food sustainability and home economics provide additional resources for the study of food production and consumption. 

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections also features significant materials on the history of wine and alcoholic beverages. In addition to materials in the Eastern Wine and Grape Archive, RMC preserves several hundred rare books and manuscripts on the consumption of wine, beer and alcohol for entertaining, and on the moral, economic and physical consequences of alcohol consumption dating from the 17th century to the present; rare books on wine making methods dating from the 16th onward; the papers and publications of American temperance societies and reformers; and materials documenting cocktail culture from the prohibition period onwards.

Other Cornell Resources on Food and Wine:

  • The Nestlé Library of Cornell's School of Hotel Administration holds a large collection of modern books on cooking, food and wine.
  • Cornell's Albert R. Mann Library has extensive circulating book collections on agriculture, food science, wine, grapes, and nutrition.
  • “Song of the Vine: A History of Wine” celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Wine and Grape Archive in 2008 with an exhibition devoted to the story of wine making.
  • The highlights from the exhibition "Not by Bread Alone: America's Culinary Heritage" (Cornell University Library: Ithaca, NY, 2002) features materials from RMC’s rare collections on food and wine.
  • Cornell's HEARTH collection: a full-text electronic collection of books and journals in Home Economics and related disciplines published between 1850 and 1950 developed by Cornell's Albert R. Mann Library.
  • The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections' Award Winning Exhibition on the history of home economics is available online: "From Domesticity to Modernity: What Was Home Economics?"