Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Artifact of the Month: Holiday Menu Cards

 By Diana Gordon
Hampton Roads Naval Museum Educator

The museum's Artifact of the Month display features holiday menus and cards from a variety of ships from the first half of the 20th century. Among those currently on display are menus from the USS Agamemnon (ID 3304), USS Augusta (CA-31), and USS Wisconsin (BB 64). 

The USS Agamemnon was originally called the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II, a German passenger ship, and was seized by the United States during World War I. There was a need for transport ships when the US entered the war so the vessel was used to transport soldiers over to Europe. When the armistice was signed, Agamemnon carried the troops back to Hampton Roads throughout 1919.

The Christmas menu from USS Agamemnon is from 1918, when the ship was readying in Brest, France, to transport soldiers back to the US. The menu cover features traditional holiday motifs: a snowy view, the green holly, and chiming bells, all motifs that would have reminded the crew of home while they enjoyed their Christmas dinner. 

Also on display is a 1931 Christmas menu from USS Augusta, which was used as a presidential flagship at times. Similar to the USS Agamemnon menu card, it displays the traditional holiday motifs--a snowy mountainside with the quiet city below, the blooming holly, and red and green bells.

The display also features several menu cards from USS Wisconsin during different years of the ship's service. One in particular is from Christmas Day in 1951, when the battleship was involved in fire support missions during the Korean War. This card features a non-traditional holiday picture: USS Wisconsin is featured steaming ahead, as Santa Claus (colored in red) descends from a hovering helicopter above. This menu is different as it does not feature motifs of peace and reminders of home, but of humorous times aboard the ship. In addition to the comic cover, the menu presents a list of all the different courses served during the Christmas meal, including Virginia ham, snowflake potatoes, and mincemeat pie.

Stop on by and see the rest of the holiday collection!

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