Tomorrow is the anniversary of the birth in 1809 of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States of America. Celebration of the event has varied enormously over time, depending on political and historical loyalties, and budgeting decisions of individual states, but the day has never been an official federal public holiday.
In 1909, on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth, an extra-ordinarily expensive banquet was held in Springfield, Illinois. I have no information as to how this was funded.
A Twenty-Thousand Dollar Banquet
Chicago Firm Successfully Caters for Eight Hundred
at Lincoln Centennial Feast in Springfield, Illinois
Banquet Tickets Twenty-five Dollars Each . . . . Facts and Figures
of Most Remarkable Gastronomic Event in the History of Illinois
(From The Hotel Monthly of March, 1909.)
Probably the greatest catering feat ever accomplished in the state of Illinois was handled by the Richelieu Catering Co. of Chicago in Springfield, on the anniversary of Lincoln's one hundredth birthday. The banquet was served in the Armory and covers were laid for eight hundred at twenty- five dollars the plate. The caterer's bill was, approximately, $10,000. The balance of the money was spent for decorations, souvenirs, entertainment of invited guests, music and other necessary expenses. This was the menu:
- Martini Cocktail
Mock turtle, American
Celery Olives Radishes
- Haut Sauternes
Crab meat with fresh mushrooms, Illini
Tenderloin of beef, Sangamon
Duchesse potatoes Green peas
LOG CABIN PUNCH
Breast of guinea squab, Old Salem.
Compote of fruit Lettuce and endive salad
Ice cream Assorted cakes
- Pommery and Greno Sec
Creamed roquefort cheese, in celery
To serve this banquet, the Richelieu Catering Company took from Chicago a 48-foot range, coffee urns, utensils, and all the necessary paraphernalia for cooking and serving the banquet. The service of china, glass, silver and linen required three railroad cars. Eighteen thousand pieces of china were used. A special kitchen was built in the rear of the Armory, tent-covered, and with wood floor. Gas pipes were connected for fuel, and these were protected against frost, so that nothing would mar the success of the culinary end. All the foods were brought from Chicago (192 miles) on Thursday night, and the banquet was served Friday night. Seventy-five colored waiters were employed, and twenty-five white men for wine service. Forty-five of the colored waiters and all of the white waiters were brought from Chicago. One hundred and thirty help in all were employed by the caterers.
The provisions included nine barrels of oysters, fifty gallons of soup, thirty pounds of crab meat flakes, thirty pounds of fresh mushrooms, 560 pounds of No. 1 beef tenderloin, and 375 guinea fowl. The liquid refreshments served averaged for each guest: one cocktail, one glass of sauterne, one glass of pommard, three glasses of champagne, and one liqueur. Each diner received three cigars.
The service began at 7:30, and was ended at 9:30, when the speechmaking began. Everything went off as smooth as smooth could be, and the catering firm was highly complimented on the skillful management and the correct service. The
hall was beautifully decorated by a St. Louis firm, the chief decorations being chandeliers and wall brackets of electric lights, each bulb the center of a poinsettia flower. The credit for the success of this great banquet is due Richard
Ostenrieder, general manager of the Edelweiss and Hofbrau Restaurants; S. Pruym, manager of the catering department of the Hofbrau Restaurant and Richelieu Catering Company; and Albert Stalle, chef of the Richelieu Catering Company.
The illustration herewith of the banquet hall is from a photograph by Lawrence of Chicago, and shows the clever arrangement of the tables, by which, radiating from the speakers' table, each of the eighty tables (with ten diners at each) was
located so that every diner had unobstructed view of the speakers' table. The table decoration was of cut flowers arranged in mounds purposely low, so as not to obstruct the view of the speakers' table.
Each guest was presented with a bound volume of the Life of Lincoln. The menu card was in form of a booklet, the leaves eight by ten inches, the cover presenting a fine portrait of Lincoln, Selections from Lincoln's addresses and correspondence, gems of American literature, scintillated thru the pages.
Notwithstanding the vast amount of table ware required for the service of this banquet, the inventory count of the returned goods showed only four knives and four forks missing. The total loss, including china, glass, silver, linen, and breakage, amounted to less than $75.
I would dearly have loved to give you a recipe for Log Cabin Punch, but it was almost certainly invented and named for the day, and presumably to honour Lincoln’s birth in a humble log cabin in Kentucky. Instead, I give you the instructions for Non-Such Punch (simply because I like the name) from How to Mix Drinks, or, the Bon-Vivant’s Companion, published in 1862 – only a few years before he was assassinated in April 1865.
6 bottles of claret.
6 [ditto] soda-water.
1 [ditto] brandy.
1 [ditto] sherry
1 pint of green tea.
Juice of three lemons.
½ of a pineapple cut up in small pieces. Sweeten with white sugar to taste. Strain a bottle immediately. Keep for one month before using.
This is a delicious and safe drink for a mixed evening party. Cool before serving.
If you want something more specific for the day, there are several versions of Lincoln Cake in a previous post here.
The article says there were 800 tickets at $25 each, which would come to $20k and cover the cost.
I've lived all my life in Illinois, most of it within an hour of Springfield, and I'm pretty sure the Guinea Sangamon is made up for the occasion, and I am willing to swear the crab flakes and mushrooms Illini was. I know there are no crabs native to Illinois, which is saved from being utterly landlocked by Lake Michigan, but I'm still sure there are no crabs. I'm less sure about Guinea fowl, though I doubt there are many near the Sangamon River.
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