Cornell University Library is home to collection of more than 10,000 restaurant and banquet menus, providing researchers with a rich source of information on the manners and food habits of earlier times.
The core of Cornell's menu collection 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.
Subsequent menu donations and purchases have added to Oscar's original collection. The collection now spans from the 1850s to the present day and totals more than 35 cubic feet.
The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections contains significant archival collections on agriculture, food science, nutrition, and home economics. 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.
Related Online Resources
- Cornell's Albert R. Mann Library has extensive book collections on agriculture, food science, and nutrition.
- 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?"