“Electric Dinner” in honor of Mr. Edison & Mr. Ford at Pan-Pacific Expo SF, CA (1915)

by Nancy Armitage

This is the Great Seal of State of California. Eureka is California’s motto & means “I have found it”, a gold miner is depicted to the left , in memory of the 1849 Gold Rush of California. Which Collis P. Huntington was a big part; selling hardware and supplies to the gold miners in San Francisco & Sacramento on K St. Collis’ business was called “Huntington & Hopkins Hardware”. There is a round shield with the Goddess Minerva.- Athena in Greek mythology she is the goddess of wisdom. There is a brown bear (California Grizzly Bear) depicting our state animal. A California landscape from the mountains to the sea. Photo Credit: California Historical coat of arms illustrated 1876.

I found this great Edwardian Huntington menu called the “Electric Dinner” (from the World’s Fair San Francisco in 1915). It has so many California historical facts related to it. Just what I’m looking for: a historic menu with interesting food, 2 amazing American inventors, at the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair. The fair was actually called “Columbia Pan Pacific World’s Fair” (Expo) with the date & time. I love menus, they give us so much information about an event, Mr. H. E. Huntington & his Huntington Land & Improvement Co. owned the Electric company in Southern California. I am so happy as a researcher. Let me show you this 10-course fancy “Electric Dinner” menu:

Port of San Francisco, California. The grand clock tower at the San Francisco Ferry Building was built in 1898. That is where people catch the ferries across the San Francisco Bay to Berkeley & Oakland.

“Electrical Dinner

Given in honor of Mr. & Mrs. Thomas A. Edison & Mr. & Mrs. Henry Ford & guests. Pacific Coast managers of the General Electric Company at their exhibit in the Electrical Home of the building of Manufacturers at Pan-Pacific I Exposition [San Francisco, CA] Thursday, October 21, [1915] at 6pm


California Fruit Cocktail

Green Turtle Soup

Lobster Patties, Edison

Noisette of Lamb, Henry Ford

Squabs Loucile

Cauliflower Polonaise

Potatoes Rissoles

Pancakes, Villa Montfleuri

Piece de Resistance – “America”

Burbank Fruit Pudding, a la Ford with Edison Light Sauce

Cafe Mephisto

Wine & Water

Apollinaris Mineral Water

Italian Swiss Colony – Chateau Asti”

Document: Book: The Menu & Recipe Book by Josef Lehner 1915

Was Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington there at this dinner? I don’t know. I do know the Huntington did attend the World’s Fair in 1915. Mr. & Mrs. Huntington “Edwards & Belle” arrived in San Francisco on Wed. June 28, 1915. Mr. H. E. Huntington’s brother-in-law writes in his journal: “Edwards [HEH] & Belle arrived at 11:50 pm via coast line [via Southern Pacific RR] in their car, “San Marino 1” & “San Marino 2″ from San Marino [Ranch] & went to the [Hotel} Fairmont” on Nob Hill. Document: HEH Coll HEH MS 10928 (Burkes Journals 1914-18.) I am not sure if they went back to San Francisco to go to the “Electric Dinner” in the Autumn but its possible.

Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, CA, this is the last remaining structure from the 1915 Panama Pacific World’s Fair. It is a stunning site to visit, by the lagoon with ducks and geese swimming by.

California Fruit Cocktail

What could have been in this colorful fruit salad? It all depends on the fruit & berries you have on hand. With color in a fruit salad, the brighter the better because it is so attractive with all the different colors. It was a Edwardian thing to add mayonnaise &/or sour cream to a fruit salad, but its really not necessary. In California, one doesn’t need to add anything to the fruit & it will taste flavorful & delicious. A French tradition is to add 1/2 c. white wine with 3 T. orange blossom honey or lavender honey & the zest of a orange. A refreshing addition to Fruit Salad to me, is to add extra minced spearmint leaves. Snip the spearmint leaves (remove from the stem) with a kitchen scissors to get a fine mince on the herb.

A Italian chef taught me this one: If by chance the strawberries are not ripe, (if they are not sweet): In a small bowl, mix 3 t. sugar & drizzle one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar. Add that to cut strawberries, stir until the sugar dissolves & they will taste amazingly delicious! This fruit salad/cocktail would be stunning in a lime green or blue bowl. Or serve the fruit salad individually in a vintage champagne glass or a large martini glass for drama. Place champagne or martini glasses on a saucer or dessert plate, with a doily on top of saucer.

2 c. Strawberries, remove top and cut in half

2 c. Orange slices, chunks

1 Orange, grate the zest from it and squeeze some of the orange juice out of one orange & discard)

1 c. Mango skinned & sliced or chunks

2 c. Crenshaw melon, cubed

2 c. Peaches, skinned & cut into cubes

2 c. Honey dew melon, cubed

1 c. Kiwi fruit, skinned & sliced or chunks

1 basket of Blackberries, whole

1 basket of Raspberries, whole

1 basket of Blueberries, whole

Skin & cut up all the fruit & place in a pretty green bowl or crystal bowl. Pour the berries over the fruit & toss with a large spoon.

Pretty gold & white fine bone china plates always makes a “tablescape” look special! A fruit salad would look pretty in this cup placed on the gold saucer, then placed on the dinner plate. Mrs. Arabella Huntington had several gold & white fine bone china sets, in French Limoges & Haviland.

This “Electric Dinner” menu was published in a rare book of Mr. H. E. Huntington. It was located at Huntington Library, in San Marino. The cookbook was called The Menu & Recipe Book by Josef Lehner in 1915. This menu & others were compiled as a souvenir type book (for the World’s Fair goers) for the 1915 Pan Pacific 1 Exposition in San Francisco, CA.

There are many menus & recipes in this book that direct related to Henry E. Huntington &/or the Huntington Family. H. E. Huntington often published cookbooks to promote his products (oranges & fruit) or travel (his trains or California). Always with the help of family recipes from his mansion cooks, his wife Arabella, & daughter-in-law, Mrs. Howard E. Huntington “Leslie”. The cookbooks sales promoted his Presbyterian Church, in Los Angeles, like the Ladies Aid Society or the fruit industry, like Sunkist. On Mr. Huntington’s Toucan Orange crate with his name H. E. Huntington; the label informs us that Sunkist Orange Co. was affiliated with Mr. Huntington & the sell of his oranges from San Marino Ranch & other ranches that he owned. Sunkist had a great cookbook, published in 1916; there is a illustration in that cookbook that looks just like Mr. H. E. Huntington in white tie & tails walking into a formal dinner.

In 1915, San Francisco was recovered from the terrible 1906 Earthquake/Fire. It had taken many years but they were on the road to recovery. FYI, the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge was finished being built in 1933. So before then, the Southern Pacific Co. ferries & steamships (along with other shipping companies) took people from San Francisco, across the bay, to Berkeley & Oakland, California.

So what does the Piece de Resistance “America” mean? Let’s start with the French word “Piece de Resistance”. Oxford Dictionary informs us that it usually “means a reference to a creative work or a meal; the most important part or most remarkable feature” of the meal. “America” is what they called it on the menu, maybe it lite up in a grand way with sparklers? I think it was a grand fantastical kind of dessert of some kind that had the word “America” in lights or electrical bulbs; that would have been a show stopper for this “Electrical Dinner”. What could it have looked like? Is there any photographs recording this great moment??

Fruit Salad with sprig of spearmint served on a ship. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage

Cauliflower a la Polonaise

This is a simple vegetable to make with a lovely rich flavorful dark sauce. My son, recently looked Polonaise Sauce up with a origin of Poland. It was more of a lemon-herb sauce with melted butter, chopped boiled eggs, bread crumbs, & lemon juice with the additions of a melody of herbs (thyme, basil & flat-leafed parsley). This mixture is cooked and pour over steamed vegetables (like cauliflower, asparagus and green vegetables.

1 head cauliflower, take white part off stem & cut up steam for 15-18 mins.

Polonaise Sauce

2 t. Butter

1/2 c. Fresh Bread Crumbs

1/2 t. Lemon Thyme leaves

1/2 t. sweet Basil, minced

1 t. Flat-leafed Parsley

1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1 T. Lemon juice

pinch of salt & white pepper

Sauté butter in a fry pan, add, bread crumbs & brown the crumbs. Add minced herbs & chopped egg with salt & pepper & sprinkle these herbed crumbs over cauliflower.

French Sauce (Savory Brown Sauce):

1 sm. carrot

1 onion, minced

1/2 stick butter

1/4 c. flour

4 c. beef stock

1/4 c. tomato puree

2 lg. garlic cloves, minced

1 celery rib, minced

1/2 t. mixed peppercorns

1 California bay leaf (fragrant)

Saute minced veggies in butter. Add flour and liquify with stock & tomato puree, season to taste. add bay leaf to sauce & heat up for 15-20 mintes. Take bay leaf out of sauce and discard. Place caulifower flowettes in a vegetable bowl and drizzle with lovely sauce over the top of the caulflower. Cover until ready to serve.

This is one of the famous half moon panel-murals that decorated the Huntington’s mansion at No. 2 57th Streets in NYC. The painting was by artist: Henry Siddons Mowbray. I have read that this panel is a depiction of Mrs. Arabella Huntington with red hair holding a lightbulb. These panels now hang at Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.

So Mr. H. E. Huntington owned the Edison Co. – which is the Electric Co. – which later became the Southern Edison Co. Mr. H. E. Huntington had something to do with planning this special dinner in honor of these two amazing American inventors. Maybe he was on the Pan Pacific committee (I know Archer Huntington was on it in NYC) in San Francisco or donated money to the Pan-Pacific Company that was formed in 1904.

To select the location of San Francisco, CA was a 2-fold reason. 1) for years California cities like San Diego & Los Angeles were hosting parties, fundraisers, & large expositions for Panama Pacific efforts. 2) They had the Pan Pacific World’s Fair in 1915 to raise money to help San Francisco recover from the terrible earthquake /fire o f1906 that destroyed the entire city & build buildings to last. The World’s fair was situated on 636 acres about 1 mile, now known as the Marina District. The world’s fair’s opening was February 20, 1915 to December 4, 1915.

To help to finish the Panama Canal which did actually happen in 1914. The Panama Canal opened to big ships from the Pacific Ocean to Panama City & eventually to Caribbean Sea. At the 1915 San Francisco Worlds Fair, they had a miniature Panama Canal which was made up of 5 miles of water ways & people could ride in little boats through it. The real Panama Canal should be one of the 7 wonders of the world! But its man-made, but it’s truly amazing how there are able to get these gigantic ships thru the locks of the Panama Canal..

A 2015 pamphlet was “written on the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Pan Pacific celebration: that “The 2 friends (Thomas Edison & Henry Ford) traveled west with their families in Fords private rail [road] car to enjoy the Exposition’s Edison Day on October 21…..General Electric promoted the event with an illustration “Edison’s Dream Come True”. It depicted Edison gazing through a window onto a cityscape made brilliant by his invention”. There were many events at the Exposition to honor him as a great inventor. Information: by PPIE100 October 21, 2015

On October 21, 1915, it was declare “Edison Day” at the World’s Fair! There was a advertising sticker looking like a postage stamp; (yellow. purple, & blue). made up to promote Edison & his special day! It says: October 21st Edison Day 36th Anniversary of Incandescent Lighting 1879-1915 Edison Mazda”

The Huntington Mansion is the white one in the middle. Collis & Arabella Huntington bought it in 1895.. Collis got to enjoy the mansion for 5 years, he died in 1900. In April of 1906, of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington’s mansion was completely leveled after the great EQ/Fire. Photo Credit: from a panoramic photo by Eadweard [Edward] Muybridge in 1878.

In 1915, Mrs. H. E. Huntington (Arabella) was emotional about this train trip from the San Marino Ranch north to San Francisco. She hadn’t been up to San Francisco since 1906, 9 years had passed. We know this by a document written by E. Burke Holladay in his journal. Her life in San Francisco had stopped, 9 years earlier.

In April of 1906, her massive Nob Hill mansion on at 1020 California St. in San Francisco was completely destroyed. It was completely leveled to the ground by the terrible Earthquake/Fire. All her pretty things were destroyed, exceptionally the large master art collection in the ballroom/picture gallery & art work in all of the rooms, French furniture, large collection of fine bone china (Minton and Sevres) & porcelain plates, etc. Her mansion staff were incredible during the EQ/Fire & quick because they were able to remove at least 4 paintings, if not more. We know of Arabella large portrait with the long red dress painted by French artist Alexandre Cabanel was saved; as was the portrait of her husband, Collis Huntington by artist Keith & 2 other ones. On a happy note, during the week in 1915, Mrs. Arabella Huntington decided to donate her property [a whole city block] of her Huntington mansion to the City of San Francisco. A very generous gift indeed.

A photograph taken in the San Francisco Call Newspaper in 1890’s .Mrs. C. P. Huntington (Arabella or Belle) in a beautiful dark or black sequin long gown with lovely lace.

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