John's Island Cafe, Santa Catalina 1940s/50s Menu Art by Dorothy & Otis Shepard
This stunning menu is from a side-project of two of America's most famous commercial designers, Dorothy and Otis Shepard, stemming from their work with chewing gum giant Wrigley.
Otis, known as "Shep", met Philip K. Wrigley in 1932, and quickly became the firm's art director. With Dorothy he created some of the most iconic ads in history; by 1936, the pair were reworking every visual aspect of the Wrigley-owned Chicago Cubs baseball team, from signs, scorecards and tickets to the players' uniforms.
P. K. Wrigley also owned the island of Catalina, near Los Angeles, which the Cubs used as their base for spring training. Wrigley wanted to develop the island as a tourist destination, and asked the Shepards to work on the design.
This menu fits their design ethos perfectly: clean lines, striking bold colors, and thoroughly wholesome. Judging by the prices, this menu dates from the early 1950s, suggesting the Shepards' art was in use long after their initial assignment.
John's Café was a long-term fixture on the island, possibly dating from the 1920s when the Wrigleys started developing Catalina as a tourist destination. On the back of the menu, there’s a note that says the restaurant has been “on the ocean front for 25 years.”
Open year round, the restaurant served hearty food including a plate of fish and chips for the grand sum of 85 cents.
This menu includes the word island, as in John’s Island Café. It matches another vintage menu in our collection that has a colorful portrait of a winking chef – presumably John the owner. This menu is simply called John’s Café and is dated from the 1930s.
In 1975 P.K. Wrigley deeded 42,135 acres of Catalina to the Catalina Island Conservancy, giving the non-profit control of about 90 per cent of the island, thus ensuring that it protects and preserves this beautiful part of California.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each print is accompanied by a copy of the interior menu or cover.