by Cherronet Champollion, Madame Mary, [nee Mary Corbin]
1892. A collection of nineteen menus and two name place cards from the turn of the last century in a contemporary red cloth album decoratively stamped and lettered in gilt and black on front board and in blind on rear board. Some of the menus are printed and some hand written, several illustrated with small drawings or watercolours. The menus are held in the album by slits cut in the albums pages for the corners or by ribbon; they are not adhered to the pages. Though the menus are in very good condition, the pages on which they are mounted have various tears and chips. There are many, many blank pages remaining at the rear of the album. The album has some nicks and scrapes, but is generally very good. This album of menus was collected by Mary Corbin, the daughter of Austin Corbin, the 19th century banker and railroad tycoon (some might say robber baron), who was responsible for the development of the Manhattan Beach resort area on Long Island. His first hotel The Manhattan, opened in 1877, and its phenomenal success prompted Corbin to build The Oriental Hotel which opened in 1883. During the Golden Age, Corbin, who had rehabilitated the Long Island Railway, frequently traveled to his hotels in Manhattan Beach with parties of friends on his private railway cars also named "Manhattan" and "Oriental" for his hotels. The Oriental, which was richly designed and constructed with a Moorish motif, catered to the very wealthy, providing grand suites to accommodate extended stays through the entire summer season. One of the chief attractions of the resort area was horse racing and gambling, so when gambling became prohibited the resorts rapidly declined in popularity. In 1916 the Oriental Hotel was torn down and the land was sold for residential development. In 1878 Austin's daughter Mary Corbin married Rene Cheronnet Champollion, grandson of the eminent French scholar, Jean Francois " l'Egyptologue" Champollion (the first to translate the Rosetta Stone and significant Egyptian hieroglyphic texts). Several of the menus bear her elaborately lettered name "Mme Cheronnet Champollion." In 1878, Austin Corbin purchased "Sugar River Farm" with its 1880s Georgian farmhouse, near his own estate and game preserve Corbin Park near Newport, R.I., as a wedding present for his daughter, Mary. It served as a summer residence for Mary and Rene. Unfortunately, Rene died in Newport in 1886, leaving Mary a widow with a young son Jean Francois Andre. Mary Cheronnet Champollion in turn died at an early age in 1892, their son was thenceforth raised by Mary's parents. Fittingly, three of the menus in the album are printed menus from her father's Oriental Hotel at Manhattan Beach, Long Island. The first is "BREAKFAST" and is undated; the second is "DINNER" which is dated Sunday, June 29, 1890; and the third is "LUNCH" which is dated June 30, 1890. At that time the manager of the Hotel was Charles H. Shelley. The extensive breakfast menu has offerings ranging from Cantalope, Caviar, and Little Neck Clams to Cured Roe Herring, Grilled Lamb Kidneys and and Long Island Eggs. A happy selection of "Breakfast Wines" includes St. Julien, Margaux, St. Estephe, Macon, Haut Barsac and Haut Sauternes. The Lunch and Diner offerings are similarly diverse and refined: lobster, clams, bluefish, lamb's tongue, truffled tenderloin, far too many delicacies to itemize. Clearly, the wealthiest families were well provisioned in these summer digs. Interesting as the three printed menus are, especially given their provenance, the rest of the menus are unique and possess the individual charm of elegant private dining in the Golden Age. Only a few are dated, but all were produced before 1892. (Inventory #: 3700)
2 Main Street, North Dam Mill, 18-214
Biddeford, ME 04005
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