Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Pretty Good Spread: Shipboard Menus from the Puget Sound Maritime Collection

Menu covers of the S.S. Homeric of the Italian Home Lines cruising to the West Indies from Europe in 1957.

Cruise ships and passenger liners have a tradition of fine dining. Menus in the care of Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society bear witness to this tradition. We have well over 1,000 menus in a collection donated by J.A. Gibbs and inventoried by Hal Will. We are pleased to present a selection of these in this web essay.

Ships menu covers often included original artwork evocative of the ships destinations. A series of menus from the passenger liner Denali, in the service of the Alaska Steamship Line, feature Husky and Malamute dogs, a sure crowd pleaser. 

Mother and daughter artists Nina and Josephine Crumrine were commissioned by the steamship line to create artwork for their ships. Full size prints decorated ship offices. A number of their original paintings are in the care of museums and archives. Most of the dogs are named leading us to believe they were painted from life models.

This 1929 menu from the S.S. Dorothy Alexander, en route from Ketchikan to Sitka, converts into a convenient postcard to send to your friends. The Pacific Steamship Company has kindly included contact information should the recipient be interested in cruising. The romantic, tropical imagery would seem to have little to do with the ship's destination; however, the company also served the palmy communities of San Diego and Los Angeles.

This cover from a 1930's shipboard menu reflects the Arts and Crafts aesthetic of the period. Malahat Drive is a scenic highway on Vancouver Island, a part of the Trans-Canada Highway. The ship was the SS Princess Patricia in service of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Dinner on the Princess Patricia included steamed deep sea cod, prime rib, jelly omelette, whatever that is, and princess ice cream.

The S. S. President Jefferson was one of five liners operated as the Admiral Oriental Line, a concern of shipping magnate Robert Dollar. A Thanksgiving menu from 1930 -- The Captain's Dinner --  included a "Sayonara to our Japanese Passengers," leading us to guess that the liner was about to make port in Yokohama or Kobe. A handwritten note at the bottom reads "I thought this a pretty good spread."

 Robert Service poem graces a summer cruise to Alaska menu, 1979.