The Transportation Library Menu Collection provides a unique insight into the conditions and details of travel throughout the 20th century.
The collection contains over 400 menus, and is strongest regarding US air travel, but also includes African, Asian, Australasian, European and South American companies are also represented.
Some trains and steamboat menus appear amongst the 54 airlines as well. The bulk of the collection was donated by George M Foster in 1997, though it has been added to since.
Foster was a distinguished anthropologist, and also a consultant for UNICEF and The World Health Organisation and this required him to travel the globe. Foster authored just under 300 publications including 12 books.
The menus give a glimpse of a world in which it was assumed that fine wines and food was a necessary part of the experience, perhaps due to the rarity and exclusiveness of long-distance travel.
In fact Foster’s menus not only have flight numbers, dates and airplane types handwritten on, but also ratings and comments on the foods and wines he sampled.
Included in the collection is a letter which Foster sought to explain what he thought was the significance of the collection.
It was unfinished when he died aged 92 in 2006, but does include a vivid description of his first commercial flight in 1935.