by Nancy Armitage
The Hobby Club of New York was one of Mr. Henry E. Huntington’s very favorite social clubs. In fact, he was one of the founding members of this club & the co-vice-president, too.
This group of hobby enthusiasts & collectors took the club seriously & had annals & by-laws. It stated in the by-laws that the club was not to exceed 50 members. Prospect members had to go to the Board of Governors & present their collection to get into the Hobby Club & that 3 men would decide on the candidate.
The 1st time I saw a Hobby Club Dinner Menu (December 1915 above); it was in the book by Dickensons’ called the Library of Libraries. Which is all about Mr. H. E. Huntington; there was a photograph of the actual dinner menu. That December 1915 Hobby Club dinner menu stated that the dinner was actually held at Mr. & Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Arabella) NYC mansion on 57th St. & 5th Ave. I thought could there be more of these Hobby Club menus?? My hunch was correct.
Because I am interested in the social & domestic life of the Huntingtons, I thought there was probably more of these formal Hobby Club dinner menus. As a “reader” at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, I inquired about these possible menus. I asked my HEH associate curator, Jennifer Goldman & she looked into it for me. She found a huge portfolio of H.E. Huntington’s Hobby Club collection of menus which she let me view. This huge portfolio was a treasure trove of Gilded Age Dinner menu & foods. Also, foods that Mr. H.E. Huntington actually ate. It was exactly what I was looking for. It was labeled 1911-1917 & it had 25 Hobby Club menus in this large portfolio because most of the menus were 15″ x 20″ in size. Most of them beautifully painted & illustrated by Tiffany & Co.
The Hobby Club members enjoyed a elegant dinner together on a quarterly basis. There usually dinner was at least 10-12 course meal. It usually started with Oysters on the Half Shell served with Amontillado Sherry or Caviar. Soup was usually Turtle Soup or Southern-style Gumbo I saw listed too. Then, they had Hors d’oeuves, usually a lovely “Amuse Bouche” (a treat from the chef). A Fish course and/or a Chicken Course served with a white wine. Then a Lamb with Mint Sauce was typically the Entree & served with the finest French Champagne . The Lamb was served with Fresh French “Petit Pois” (Green Garden Peas) or Asparagus with Dutch Hollandaise sauce & all kinds of styles of Potatoes., A Game course with a Salad Course after (French style). A break in the middle of the dinner with Roman Punch. Then a French Fromage (French cheese) course usually French Camembert & Roquefort were typical. Next, was a showering of lovely desserts, there were Ices or Mousse course. Then Assorted Fancy Cakes & small Petit fours. Ending with Coffee, Cigars & Fancy Liqueurs.
The Hobby Club started in 1911, when several friends of Mr. Henry E. Huntington’s decided to share their “hobbies” or collections with each other. Also, they enjoyed a lovely multi-course elegant dinner, too. Maybe a short little lecture might be included while the gentlemen ate their dessert.
I’m not sure who paid for these scrumptious Hobby Club dinners & wines with fancy Champagne. Also, the hand-painted menu cards by Tiffany himself must have cost some money. They did have a treasurer on the committee, & they did pay dues. I did find a sheet in H.E. Huntington’s papers stating that the members paid $5.00 for 10-12 course meal with lecture & sharing their collection evenings. Wow, I wonder if Mr. Huntington donated to these evenings, he was very generous that way, often in secret. $5.00 seems quite inexpensive for the finest of foods & French Champagne!
I did find evidence that Mr. Huntington paid for the photograph of the 1st Hobby Club Dinner. In one envelope, I found a photograph of the 1st hobby Club Dinner in 1911 with 13 men present. They were all dressed in formal ware with white ties & tails. Outside of the envelope stated: “Please do not crush or bend. Paid through Mr. Henry E. Huntington Metropolitan Club Fifth Ave. & 60th Street City. Banquet Photo by Drucker & Co. 204 W. 43th St. Time Square, New York.”
The very 1st Hobby Club banquet dinner was located at the Metropolitan Club in NYC (menu above). Mr. H. E. Huntington actually lived at the Metropolitan Club, while he was “in-residence” in NYC during the early 1900’s. He was a bachelor between 1906 (divorced from his 1st wife, Mary) until he married Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) in 1913. Several other Hobby Club dinner banquets were at the Metropolitan Club & the Union Club too, in New York City. Always very clever themes attached with the dinners.
In 1913, they started a trend where the Hobby Club members were invited to go to a member’s home & they would show their collections & enjoy a elegant dinner together. Mr. Huntington hosted at least 3 of the elegant dinners at his New York City mansion.
Roman Punch Recipe
Roman Punch was often offered in the middle of several Huntington formal dinner menus & Hobby Club Dinner Menus. Roman Punch or a Sorbet was often served in the middle of a multi-course meal “to cleanse the palate”.
Juice of 4 Naval Oranges (1 1/2 c.)
2 c. Water
1 c. French Champagne or Rum
juice of 1 lemon
1 t. Sugar
1 1/2 c. Afternoon Darjeeling brewed Tea
1/4 c. Maraschino cherry juice
Mix the water & sugar together then add fruit juices and tea. Strain the citrus pulp from the juice. This mixture could be frozen to a mush at this point. Just before the party, add cold French champagne or rum. Serve in champagne glasses or frappe glasses. Makes 1 1/2 qt. Recipe: Nancy Armitage
So why do I love Gilded Age menus so much. As a researcher, they are a great source of historical information! A dinner menu can give you so many important details of a event: a location & reason of a celebration, time & date of party, the theme, & wonderful illustrations of the theme of party. And with this particular collection of menus: signatures of the members of the club were on the back side of the menu.
These Hobby Club menus are a wonderful illustration of the Hobby Clubs passions for art, beauty, books, coins, & interesting collections. By the letters, memos, & notes I found of Mr. Huntington’s about the Hobby Club – there was an executive committee & a the Board of Governors (they seemed to have the last word) . Which HEH was a co- vice-president & Tomlinson was the secretary of this committee. Tomlinson was very efficient with dates & time; this executive committee met a couple of times a year, sometimes a formal dinner included, only one menu (June of 1918 below) for Board of Governors dinners. Committee meeting were probably to plan for the clubs seasonal Hobby Club dinners.
The Hobby Club met for fancy banquet dinner on a seasonal basis, four times a year: Winter, Spring, Summer, & Autumn. For this celebration, the men dressed in white tie & tails & there was a multi-course dinner provided; and probably sharing of the “Collection” before & after dinner.
The Hobby Club had themes to these interesting dinner parties like Shakespeare, Mathematics, Halloween, Native American Indian, and Medieval. I am not sure if the host of the party or the executive committee picked the theme. But one the times, H.E. Huntington hosted the Hobby Club dinner – the theme was Shakespeare; Mr. Huntington does have a amazing collection of ephemera & books of Shakespeare. A couple of the Hobby Club menus are in Latin.
So how many of these Hobby Club menus exist? Probably about about 50 or more. If the dinners happened quarterly for 18 years. I only viewed 25 menus in Mr. H.E. Huntington’s large portfolio that was packed full. Porfolio started in 1911 and ended Dec. 6th 1917. The large menus were about 15″ x 20″. In general from 1911-1917, they had 4 dinners a year. One year there seemed to be no menu printed for the Hobby Club; is was the 4th dinner in summer of 1912.
I don’t know if Mr. Huntington actually attended every single Hobby Club dinner, either. If members did not attend they could have been out of town. We do know that H. E. Huntington did not attend any of the Hobby Club dinners in half of 1927 & 1928, because Mr. Huntington died in May of 1927.
So once the Hobby Club figured out their dinner “theme” for their seasonal dinner, a club location or a host of a collection, & location of this theme…they hired Tiffany & Co. to design a beautiful illustrated dinner menu. It listed all the beautiful fancy dinner courses listed & illustrating the theme, also. Sometimes wine & champagne was listed.
Another interesting thing that the Hobby Club members did (or maybe it was just Mr. Huntington) was signatures of the members on the back of the menu. On the back of the Hobby Club dinner menus, I found the members that attended the Hobby Club dinner all signed their names. I’m leaning towards it might have been Mr. Huntington’s menu, because he collected signatures of well-known people, that is part of his collections.
This is my typed up list of the Hobby Dinners (below) & some Hobby Club meetings that took place, also. The Date, Location, Menu, & Theme are listed, also. When the information was provided, I included all the members that were present at the Hobby Club dinners. It is incomplete. The Club started with 12-15 members & grew to 30 or more members.
The 2nd Hobby Club Dinner was on February 8, 1912. The theme was about time or clocks; location was the University Club, NYC. Here is the menu & poem included on the menu: Menu: Buffet Rvsse, Grapefruit au Madere, Chicken Consomme Brillat Savarin, Varies Hors oeuvre’s, Terrapin a la University, Saddle & Rack of Spring Lamb, Mint Jelly, New Peas, Bermuda Potatoes rissoles, Souffle of Fresh Mushrooms, Squab Guinea Chicken with Bread Sauce, Celery Salad en Bellevue, Glace Chipolata au marasquin, Cheese course, Fruit, Coffee. “Threefold the stride of time first to last! Loitering slow, the future creepeth – Arrow -swift the present sweepeth – and Motionless forever stands the past.” Schiller. Document: HEH Coll. HEH Bio File 17/1uncat Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The Thirteen (13th) Dinner of the Hobby Club Thursday April 23th, 1914 at 263 Madison Ave. New York City Dinner Menu: Escalloped Melon Cocktail, Clear Consommé, Broiled Terrapin, Mushrooms on toast, “Drumthwacket” Milk fed Baby Lamb, Mint sauce, Asparagus Hollandaise, New Potatoes, Green Peas, Boned Capon, Salad, Ice Cream. Liquors: Sherry, Chateau Lafitte 1888, Moet & Chandon 1889 Cuvee 36, Grande Fine Champagne 1811 caves du Duc D’Aumale, The Old Chartreuse. Theme: Armor, Philadelphia, horse carriage. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 14th Dinner of the Hobby Club of New York was at Edwin R. Seligram 324 West 86th Street NYC on Friday evening, November 20th 1914. Theme: Thanksgiving cornucopia, French satire, Dutch menu (St. Nicholas day Dec 5th) words on menu: Bank, Credit, Land, Security, Curiosities of Economic Literature, French picture of Louis XVI. French & Dutch themed Dinner Menu: Pamplemousse, Potage Julian [Dutch] Poisson Pigeons, Petit Pois [French Green Peas], Selle de Mouton [Leg of Lamb], Pommes au natural, Salad Endive, Glaces, Gateaux [Fancy French Cake, Fromage -French Camembert, Fruits, Cafe [Coffee] Liquors: Amontillado Sherry, Chateau d’Yqueur 1895, Pontet Canet 1893, Liqueurs. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The Fifteen Dinner of the Hobby CLVB of New York was on Tuesday evening January 12, 1915, Hosted by Henry E. Huntington at the Metropolitan Club. The theme was Native American Indians, with images of Indian arrowheads & Indian teepees. Also, on the menu it stated *H.E. Huntington with the good wishes fellow hobbyists. Menu: Cotuit Oysters, Oxtail a la Indian, [Relish dish]: Celery, Olives, Radishes & Almonds, Chicken Halibut a la Hazard, Cucumbers, Saddle of Mutton with [Mint] Jelly, Spinach, Potatoes Rissoles, Broiled Spring Chicken, Lettuce Salad a la Teppe, Assorted Cheeses, Fancy Ices, Cakes, Coffee. 14 Hobby Club member Signatures on the back of the menu: David Wagstaff, Phoenix, Albert Gallatin, David R. Francis, Henry Harper, Plimpton, Newell, Thomlinson Jr. , Hazard, Duzer, Theo Vail, J.O Crimmin, W.P. Trent & H.E. Huntington. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 16th Hobby Club of New York Dinner was on Friday, February 12th , 1915 at 80 Irving Place New York City location. The Theme was Wm. Thackery letters; the menu had a funny cartoon with a man with a long mustache wearing a jester medieval costume. Also, a illustration of a man with a black top hat riding a horse. Menu: Oysters with Rudesheimer, Clear Green Turtle Soup with Vintage sherry 1865 Coronation 1911, Soft Clams, a l’Ancienne, Saddle of Canadian Mutton with Bollinger Special Cuvee 1904, Potatoes Croquettes, Peas, Virginia Ham, Hothouse Tomatoes & Lettuce Salad, Plum Pudding, Vanilla Ice Cream, Fruit, Dessert, Coffee, Old Chartreuse, Prince of Wales Port 1815, Otard Brandy 1808, Southside Madeira (110 yrs old) 1825 Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 17th Hobby Club of New York Dinner was on Friday evening the XXIII MCMXV. The menu was on a tan parchment paper with a deckled edge; sepia tone lettering. The 11- course dinner Menu was as follows: Littleneck Clams, Soup was Croute en pot, [Relish dish]: celery radish & Almonds, Planked Shad & Roe with Cucumbers, Fresh Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce, Guinea Chicken Metropolitan, String Beans, Assorted Cheeses, Lettuce Salad, Fancy Ices, Cakes, Coffee. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 18th Hobby Club of New York Dinner on Thursday, The sixteenth of December 1915 at Two East Fifty-seventh Street which was Henry E. Huntington Mansion on 57th & 5th Ave. (he shared with Arabella D. Huntington his wife) On the menu on scrolls were many of HEH’s collections: Shakespeare, Spenser, Swift, Defoe, Dickens, Fielding, Goldsmith, Herrick, Lamb, Milton, Burns, Cruikshank, Lincolniana, Washingtoniana, Bryant, Poe, Hawthorne, Cowell, Irving, The Federalist 1788, New England Primer 1735, Franklin MS, Autobiography 1771-90. A Tiffany & Co. Illustrated menu with a photograph of HEH’s library on the top. On the top left was a illustrated “E” with orange & lemon trees growing out of the “E'” for Eighteen Dinner of Hobby Club. A nod to Mr. Huntington orange groves and lemons at his San Marino Ranch in Southern California. The Hobby Club Dinner Menu was Caviar on Toast, Consommé Royal, Terrapin, Chicken Mousse with Truffle Sauce, Roman Punch, Saddle of Lamb, Peas, Potatoes, Currant Jelly, Pate de Fois Gras in Aspic, Fruit Salad, Macaroon Ice Cream, [Fancy] Cakes, Coffee. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 19th Nineteenth Dinner of the Hobby Club was on Tuesday evening, January 18,1916; located at 30 E. Fifty-ninth St. New York City with the dinner menu in French written in sepia ink on white paper. In 1916, the Hobby Club started a trend with the Hor’deouves coming first at this fancy meal The theme might have been Thackeray, a hint on the menu. The Hobby Club Dinner Menu was for the 1st course: Hors d’Oeuvres then Huitres [Oysters on the Half Shell with Mignonette Sauce] Consomme Printanier [Soup Course], Ragout de Poisson a la Thackeray [Chicken Course], Ris de Veau with Sauce Amandes [Veal with Almond Sauce], Selle de Mouton de Canada [Leg of Canadian Lamb], Pommes de Terre, Rissoles, Haricots [French Green Beans], Asperces with Novvelles Hollandaise [Asparagus with New Hollandaise Sauce], Celeri a la Grece, Canape a l Roi Jacque, Glace des Iles, Cafe [Coffee] Menu was sage green on white paper with sepia ink with Old English fonts & scrip. 6 illustrations 1829 & 1830 on the top of the menu one labeled Flore et Zephyr 1836; menu signed by Tiffany & Co. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The Twentieth Dinner (20th) of Hobby Club of New York Thursday Evening, February the Seventeenth one Thousand and nine Hundred and Sixteen at six hundred and Forty-five fifth Avenue, New York City. Dinner on February 17, 1916 at Mr. D. O. Field 645 5th Ave. NYC. The Hobby Club Dinner Menu was as follows: The Theme was satire on travel & ships; there was late 1800’s illustrations, flags, & illustration of Queen Charlotte ship. On the bottom of the menu a illustration of a man & woman walking or talking to another lady. The menu was on tan parchment paper with a deckled edge & black ink font & drawings in black & white. . The Dinner Menu is as follows: Hor d’oeuvres, Green Turtle Soup, Broiled Shad, Saddle of Lamb, Potatoes, Jelly, Westfield Farm Ham, Spinach, Hot Spiced Peaches, Salad, Crackers & Cheese, Rice Pudding in Cups, Pumpkin Pie, Mince Pie, Coffee. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The Twenty-First Dinner (21st) of the Hobby Club of New York Thursday March 13, 1916 [written out in long hand]. The Location of the Dinner was at 7 East 67th Street, New York City. The 12- course Hobby Club Dinner Menu is as follows: Oysters, Green Turtle Soup, Broiled Shad, Creamed Cucumbers, Spring Lamb with Mint Sauce, Rice Croquettes, Lima Beans, Roast Squab Chicken, Asparagus Sauce Hollandaise, Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberries, Cheese, Fruit, Coffee. I must say there wasn’t a lot of creativity in these later menus like there was in the beginning in 1911. The menu was long & narrow with a illustration of a person. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 22nd Hobby Club Dinner was on Nov. 9, 1916 at the Metropolitan Club in NYC. a illustration on the top of the menu portrays Shakespeare himself, drawn by Tiffany & Co. with a very clever Shakespearean menu. The 9- course dinner menu is as follows: “Ye Feast for ye XXII Tyme of ye Company known as. Ye Hobbie Clube of ye Citye of New York (old English writting) on Thursday ye ninth daye of November in ye years of Grace, One thousand nine hundred and sixteen. Some good thynges at ye feaste: Oysters from Cape Cod, Soup from ye little pot, Sea Bass in ye country Style, Ye Sweetbreads as in Virginia, Ye Saddle of Lamb with Tyrolean Sauce, String Beans, Potatoes, Cheese, Lettuce with Russian Dressing, Coffee Withinne ye Metropolitan Club” & hand painted by Tiffany & Co. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 23th Dinner of the Hobby Club of New York was January of 1917 the theme was Medicine & Mathematics in the 16th Century with scholarly formulas of Issac Newton & the Dinner menu was in Latin. The Latin Dinner Menu: “Mirabilia Mathematica Prandium xxiij. Hobbicae in aebibus Societatis Unionensis Die XXV Mensis Januarii Anno Salutis MDCCCCXVij. Lectiuncula Davidis Eugenii Smith Petito Mathematicis: Proposito i. Canapes variae Pythagoriae, ij. Ostrea Totuita Moderna Thaleana, iij. Jus Testudineum Viride Euchideum, iiij. Extra operaria varia Apollonica v. Bassus Marimus Leibnitanus Corollarium Battata Castellana, vj. Gallina Numidica Assa Newtonian Cozollarium Apium Graveolens, Proposito vij Biscoctus Tortonius Cartesianus Corollarium Placentulae Cardanianae Explicit feciter cum coffeae Semipoculo. With 4 Celtic knot designs on the bottom. Signatures on the back: John Tomlinson Jr., Smith, H.E. Huntington, Victor Dowling, Winston H. Hapern, Edw. Newell. Wm. M Schnitzer, Geo. Plimpton, Duzer, Bashford Dean, Albert Gallatin, David Wagstaff, Phaesis Ingiluss? Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 24th Dinner of the Hobby Club of New York February 22, 1917 at Sixty-two East Fifth Street, New York City. The theme is George Washington, with a painting of George Washington by Stuart 1795& his signature on the menu. The patriotic Dinner menu with very fancy scrip writing is as follows: Lobster Cocktail, Soup: Cream of Mushroom, Fish: Salmon with Hollandaise Sauce, Roast: Brisket of Beef with Potatoes & Beets & String Beans, Virginia Ham, Salad, Orange Savarin, Coffee. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
The 25th Dinner of the Hobby Club of the City of New York in honor of William K. Bixby on Thursday evening December 6th, 1917 at Two East Fifty-seventh Street. Location was Henry E. Huntington mansion. The Dinner menu is Christmas themed with biege & green colors with a deckled edge; attached with thin ribbon to another paper. Menu as follows: Grapefruit [Cocktail], Consomme Royale, Pastry Sticks [Cheese sticks made with puff pastry], Terrapin, Hot Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce, Filet of Beef with Mushroom Sauce, Potatoes, String Beans, Roast Squab, Vegetable Salad in Aspic, Brandy Peach Ice Cream, [Fancy] Cake, Coffee. Three documents illustrated at the top of the menu. Writing on menu: Jas. Boswell 1763, I bought this 2nd at Greenwich when I was walking with Mr. Samuel Johnston. Psalmorum Davidus Paraphralis Scotipoetica London: 1660. 20 Signatures on the back of the menu: H.E. Huntington, Winston Stager, Dowling, Wm. Schnizer, Geo. King, Edwin Seligrammer, Harper, David Wagstaff, John Wilburn, W.K. Bixby, R.T. Hobally?, David Eugene Smith, Tomlinson, Chas Munger, D. Hazard, J.C. Tomlinson, Geo. Plimpton, Alfrain Donger, Advanet First, D. Munger. Document: HEH Coll HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat at Huntington Library San Marino, CA
I’m so grateful for finding this portfolio of Hobby Club menus on the front read1911-1917. It was the motherlode of culinary menu information for me. There is a possibility that there is another portfolio of menus, that has 1918-1928.
The Hobby Club was also written up in the New York Times on December 17, 1911. The article title, “Riders of Hobbies to Dine Each Month”, many lovers of books.” “The Hobby Club, incorporated by a number of well-known New Yorkers, will hold its first dinner at the Metropolitan Club on the evening of December 28. The clubs membership is limited to fifty and to become eligible one must mount some well defined hobby….there is even talk about building a clubhouse. Chance meeting of several of the present members, at which they frequently found themselves engaged in heated debates on hobbies, brought about the organization of the club…Mr. Schnitzer is pointed to by other members as the founder of the club.”
The Times Newspaper goes on with information about the Hobby Club members – actual hobbies: “The hobby of each member is listed when his application for membership is made. President Dowling hobby is books. He has one of the most interesting collection in the city. Adrian H. Joline, another member has a collection of autographs which includes those of many of the Kings of France. Theodore N. Vail is partial to books & paintings, & Henry E. Huntington’s hobby is the collection of rare editions. Mr. Tomlinson has made a study of sun dials and has a unique collection. He also has a second hobby, rare books. Prof. Trent has been trying for years to obtain information to throw light on the personality of Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. Samuel V. Hoffman, Pres. of New York Historical Society…has remarkable collection of prints of old New York. Mr. Kingsley’s hobby is Shakespeareana. The hobbies are not restricted to any particular line, & although at present they are confined mostly to literary, artistic & scientific subjects, it is expected that the field will soon be broadened.” So the Times put the Hobby Club of New York on the map in December of 1911, when they first started this adventure.
Document: HEH Coll. HEH Bio File 17/1 uncat (A portfolio of Dinner Menus of the Hobby Club, NYC) located in Huntington Library, San Marino, CA