Carefully curated artwork from one of the most important
vintage menu collections in America.
Available for the first time as archival prints
Henry Voigt began collecting vintage menus and other dining ephemera two decades ago and has amassed, according to Gastronomica magazine, “one of the most significant private collections” in the USA. He is probably the country’s foremost authority on The American Menu.
For the first time, he is making part of his amazing collection available as archival prints and other items as part of Cool Culinaria’s mission to put vintage menu artwork before a new audience. Giclee prints of wonderful works such as a ‘Private Dinner’ Louis Sherry 1884, Pennsylvania Hotel ‘Fountain Room’ New York 1922 and Biff’s Los Angeles 1954 are priced starting from $28.00.
Henry’s collection, which dates from the mid-19th century, illustrates the evolution of American dining culture. From the beginning, he observes, the menu has been an art form. “Some were beautifully crafted by leading stationers to celebrate special events. Others simply expressed the whimsy of everyday life,” he says.
He also believes menus are historical documents. “Menus aid our cultural memory – they provide unwitting historical evidence – not only of what people were eating, but what they were doing and with whom they were doing it; who they were trying to be and what they valued,” he continues.
Henry vividly remembers receiving his first menu. “My aunt went to yard sales and she found a menu from the mid-1880s for Palmer House, one of the most important hotels in Chicago. Everything about it was charming, the graphics, the way it was folded, the interesting food it offered … it had all the bells and whistles and it sparked an interest that has never waned,” he says.
A senior executive with the American chemical company DuPont, Henry waited until he was retired before adding to his collection in earnest. He carries out extensive research on the menus in his collection and as he puts it “looks under every rock” to uncover as much as possible about each one. “If you want to get the most out of art, you have to know something about it, and that’s true with menus too,” he adds. Scholars and students
Henry is delighted to be working with Cool Culinaria, which rescues vintage menus from obscurity and transforms them into prints, stretched canvases, mugs, and other products. “Anything that brings these menus to a wider audience so that other people can enjoy them and be interested in them has my support,” he says.
He says it is hard to pick his own favorites from his Cool Culinaria collection but eventually settles on the 1854 menu from La Pierre House in Philadelphia for its stunning lithography work, the whimsical charm of a 1939 Borden’s menu featuring Elsie the cow and the remarkable illustration of a fishmonger carrying a turtle on his head on a cruise ship menu from the SS Uruguay in 1941.
Henry and his wife Julie live in Wilmington, Delaware and he continues to collect and regularly lectures on The American Menu.