Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Of Blue Points and Cigars

Kappa Kappa Kappa Initiation Banquet menu 1890Roast mallard duck, celery, queen olives, lobster croquettes, and blue point oysters. This sumptuous meal comes to us through the archives of Kappa Kappa Kappa, one of the oldest fraternities at Dartmouth. The occasion? The Initiation Banquet of 1890 (program at right).

In a bygone era, new fraternity members were welcomed into their houses at an Initiation Banquet, featuring multiple courses, speeches, and songs. For each Initiation Banquet, the fraternity produced a commemorative booklet. These small pamphlets are scattered throughout the collection in membooks and fraternity files, just like the dance cards we've previously blogged.

Psi Upsilon Initation Banquet 1885Most banquet booklets follow a basic format: the fraternity name, date, location, a list of new members, a list of toasts, song lyrics, and, most importantly, the menu. But unlike dance cards, there's no set name for these items: Are they pamphlets? Programs? Menus?

Psi Upsilon Initation Banquet 1884They give us a glimpse into what students considered fancy and sumptuous in the late nineteenth century. One thing is certain -- they thought blue point oysters were awesome. They're the first item on almost every banquet menu. Oysters required ice and rapid transportation from the sea coast, indicating that they would be expensive, and therefore, a status symbol. They probably tasted pretty good too!

Other popular menu items include crackers, sherbet, and jellies. The evenings concluded with cigars and cigarettes, listed on the menu as though they were just another food group.

To see some examples, come into Rauner and ask for the Vertical File of almost any fraternity that existed before 1950. The menus in this post are from Kappa Kappa Kappa (Initiation Banquet, 1890), and Psi Upsilon (Initiation Banquet 1885 on the left and Initation Banquet 1884 on the right).

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