The London Collection
After reading several of the turn-of-the-century articles written about the Buttolph Menu Collection, I decided to check out a few facts that came to light. It was mentioned that Frank would occasionally send menus and ephemera to the British Museum in London.
In 2006 I contacted the British Museum and inquired if such items still resided with them. Did they survive the devastation of London during World War II? I wasn’t sure if something seemingly so inconsequential would have survived to this day.
To my surprise the Museum preserved all of Frank’s contributions. Museum officials informed me that the materials were placed in three large scrapbooks –about 300 items in all. They told me that back in the 1970’s the material was transferred to the British Library in London where all ephemera items are permanently housed. They gave me the contact information for Frank’s collection.
I wondered how I’d ever get to see the London collection.
Six years passed when Fate seemed to step in. A few weeks ago I was at a picnic at a friend’s house in Mansfield. Their neighbors Tom and Pixi Moritz were there also. Tom just happens to work for a company that has a factory outside of London where he goes for a month or two at a time to work. Opportunity knocks!
It just happened that Tom and Pixi were preparing to return to England in a few days.
Did I dare ask?
I told them the story of Frank and her relevance to the Mansfield community and New York City. I asked them if they would be willing to go to the London library for me and peruse a few items of historical significance, (significant to me, at least.)
They said they would.
In the next post I’ll share what Tom found and the discovery he made.
Thank you so much, Tom and Pixi.
The following tex is from an email Tom sent me from London containing some revealing information about Frank’s contributions to the London Collection.
Steve – sorry I didn’t e-mail sooner, but I understand that Pixi gave you a little info on our preliminary examination of what I would describe as catalogs or scrap books of invitations, event menus, itineraries, and business calendars. We did go to London and go through the check in procedures, which turned out to be fairly extensive.
We went to “Reader Registration” where we filled out my application. Then we met with a screener who verified my ID and information and what we wanted to research, and she issued me a picture Library ID. We then were directed to another floor where the “Rare Books and Music” Reading room was. The stacks are visible in the center of the building as you go floor to floor, but are within glass rooms that only authorized personnel have access to. I was checked into the reading room (Pix didn’t have ID, so she was not allowed in), and went to a terminal to request the material. The information you provided made it very easy to make the request at this point, thank you! The system indicated that it would take 70 minutes to have the material brought up, so I went back out and met Pixi to look at some of the library exhibits and go to the gift shop.
When I went back up and checked in, the books were ready to be collected. The room is very large with hundreds of desks, but it was pretty crowded. I had to find a work station and give the staff the desk # before they would let me take the books. Turned out that there were 4 books in the set. 2 are in pristine shape, and the other 2 were intact with front and back covers, but were bound together by pieces of gauze because the front covers were no longer attached to the spine. None of the books have any designations or writing on the covers, other than a short notation in pencil on the inside of the front covers that I believe would be the library designation and was identical to all. I didn’t see any notations anywhere as I looked through the catalogs. They were bound albums, and the pages appeared to be trimmed to fit whatever was attached so that the outer edge was even. The invitation, menu, or calendar would be attached to the edges of the trimmed page and were quite ornate. Most had ribbon or cloth adornment, and there were events from the Midwest, Washington DC, New York, and PA to name a few. There were also a couple of rail schedules and menus for specific rail trips in Montana and the Midwest. Some items were 1 page, but most were about 4-8 pages outlining the event, key speakers, menu and itinerary. There was one that was about 25 pages that outlined meeting minutes, members, as well as the menu and event itinerary. That organization was all about the abolition of “superstitions” and irrational fears, and they were commemorating the anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. There was a tribute to Jefferson as a scholar who strove to rid the world of ignorant practices.
Unfortunately I was prohibited from taking any pictures, and in my cursory examination I did not come across any notes or letters indicating why she collected the material or sent it to the UK. In fact, I don’t recall seeing any notes at all, other than what I mentioned on the inside cover. I did ask one of the staff if there was any other information related to the books, and they suggested I work with one of the reference experts to see if there is any other documentation or letter to go with the books. We didn’t have the opportunity to follow up on this visit, but will on our next trip. Pix and I intend to return and do a more thorough examination together, but would like to get some additional direction from you on what you would like us to look for.
Thanks for giving us a “quest”, it was fascinating to be in the library and handling something original with material dated from 1890 to about 1910! We look forward to our next session, but again would like to get additional detail of what you would be interested in hearing about. They will give us access to a photo copier with Staff oversight, but again I am prohibited from having a camera in the reading room (or pens, bags, etc. and am screened in and out of the room).
Hope all is well Stateside, and look forward to our next adventure!