Legendary New York Restaurants I: Highlights from the Buttolph Menu Collection

The New York Public Library holds one of the great historical menu collections in the world, a bounty due to one woman, the indefatigable and somewhat mysterious Miss Frank E. Buttolph (1850-1924). In 1899 she "inquired whether the library would preserve some then current menus." The director agreed, and Miss Buttolph then "began an extensive worldwide search for memorable specimens." She cast a wide net from her Library alcove; but well over two-thirds of her catch was of American origin, and well over half from New York City. Her grand and perhaps maniacal enterprise resulted in a collection of more than 25,000 menus, which, as Mr. Foster's Travel Magazine wrote in 1914, was "without a counter part on the globe."

Since Miss Buttolph's death in 1924, the Library's menu collection has continued to grow through additional gifts of graphic, gastronomic, topical, or sociological interest, especially but not exclusively New York-related. As Mr. Foster's presciently observed nearly a century ago, "œThose whose privilege it will be in future years to look through these reminders of an earlier time, preserved in The New York Public Library, will be grateful for the thought that prompted the making of the Buttolph Collection."

A selection of New York City restaurant menus, 1843-1902.
The New York Public Library, Rare Book Division, Buttolph Menu Collection.

Treasures Video: Watch a Short Film About the Library's Culinary Collections with Special Guest Lidia Bastianich

More Images from the Buttolph Collection of Menus

Collection Guide: Miss Frank E. Buttolph American Menu Collection, 1851-1930

More About the Menu Collection

About the Rare Book Division

Library Catalog Record