Object of the Month

A Fourth of July Feast, 1844 Style

City Dinner on the Fourth of July, 1844, at Faneuil Hall. Bill of Fare. Printed menu

City Dinner on the Fourth of July, 1844, at Faneuil Hall. Bill of Fare.

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This menu details the wide variety of foods served at the Fourth of July celebration for city officials held at Faneuil Hall in Boston in 1844. This sumptuous feast, featuring Fricasee Poulet, Compote de Pigeons, and boiled and roast meats (in addition to twenty-six kinds of dessert and fruit), was the finale to a very busy day for revelers in the city.

City Officials Celebrate the Fourth

For Mayor Martin Brimmer, members of city and state government, and their invited guests, the celebration of 4 July 1844 began at 10 o'clock in the morning with a gathering at City Hall on School Street. From there, accompanied by the Hancock Light Infantry, officials marched to the Tremont Temple, where the celebration took place. These festivities included a band, patriotic songs performed by a choir selected from the children of the public schools, prayers by Samuel K. Lothrop and Nehemiah Adams, and the annual Fourth of July oration, entitled The Morals of Freedom and delivered by Peleg W. Chandler. Nearly fifty pages when published, this "able and eloquent" oration addressed the moral decline that Chandler observed in American society. Of Independence Day, he noted, "A more sombre hue now rests upon the day; it has become an occasion of serious investigation into our real condition, and of solemn self-examination." Invoking the spirits of the Revolutionary generation, including Josiah Quincy, Jr., and John Adams, Chandler explained that the biggest danger to life as it was lived in 1844 was not a foreign power, but the gradual corruption of the people, witnessed by the "loss of conscience and manly integrity" that Chandler saw all around him. Chandler ended by exhorting his listeners in the immortal words of Shakespeare: "This above all, To thine own self be true; And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." Following the program, the officials and their guests marched to Faneuil Hall for a (late) afternoon repast, which, judging from the length of the menu, must have lasted long into the evening and left attendees well sated.

Other Events of the Day

In addition to the official city celebration, the Boston Semi-Weekly Advertiser for 6 July 1844 reported on many other ways Bostonians commemorated the nation's independence. The Fourth was clear and cool, "well suited for the enjoyment of the varied amusements, rejoicings, and solemnities of the occasion." The ringing of bells and the firing of cannon added to the clamor of throngs of Bostonians engaging in activities. A Floral Procession on Boston Common took place in the morning (raising $1,000 for the Warren Street Chapel), and gatherings of temperance societies from Boston and vicinity, the Boston [Henry] Clay Club, and the Boston and Charlestown Democrats also took place. A "remarkably beautiful and splendid" display of fireworks ended the celebration, and by midnight the streets were "restored to their customary quiet," save the whistles of trains carrying out-of-town visitors back home.

Menus

This Fourth of July menu is part of a small collection held by the MHS library that provides an interesting glimpse into the eating habits of the past. Ranging from about 1830 to 1954, the menus document dinners held by organizations, menus from hotels and restaurants, and banquets held for visiting dignitaries. Although many of the dishes are familiar to modern eyes, even the strangest sounding dishes can be identified through comparison with cookbooks of the time, also found in the MHS collections. Although the exact composition of "Blown Jumbles" remains a mystery, "jumbles" turn out to be an almond and rosewater cookie, originally formed in a ring (like a donut), but later rolled and cut out (like a sugar cookie), then baked or fried, and served in a dish with butter and sugar.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Appelbaum, Diana Karter. The Glorious Fourth: an American Holiday, an American History. New York: Facts on File, 1989.

Chandler, Peleg W. The Morals of Freedom: an Oration Delivered before the Authorities of the City of Boston, July 4, 1844. Boston: John H. Eastburn, 1844.

Lee, Mrs. N. K. M. The Cook's Own Book: Being a Complete Culinary Encyclopedia. Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1832.

Travers, Len. Celebrating the Fourth: Independence Day and the Rites of Nationalism in the Early Republic. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997.


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