“Episcopal Special”

Food and Wine for a Unique Church Gathering, 1901

A group of menus was prepared for a Convention of the Episcopal Church in San Francisco in 1901. They featured in a booklet issued to passengers travelling to the event on the Soo Line. The trip departed from Minneapolis and took three days, with multiple menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The booklet is archived at the New York Public Library as the “Episcopal Special”.

The MNopedia site offers an excellent short account on the Soo Line. An extract:

The Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad, commonly known as the Soo Line from a phonetic spelling of Sault, helped Minnesota farmers and millers prosper by hauling grain directly from Minneapolis to eastern markets.

Prominent Minneapolis businessmen founded the railroad, originally called the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie and Atlantic, in 1883. But Israel Washburn, governor of Maine and brother of Cadwallader (C.C.) and William Washburn, had proposed such a railroad to the Minneapolis Board of Trade as early as 1873.


The line had a long history that ended with some Canadian involvement. There was also a Canadian component to the 1901 train journey, of a different kind. The route went through Canada, places chosen for scenic interest. It is all set out, with the menus, in the booklet, digitized in the online menu collection of NYPL.



The meals are reflect the table of the prosperous middle class of the day: Beef Anglaise with celery, chicken a la Maryland, breaded lamb chops, ox tongue, broiled lake fish, trout, and different sorts of potatoes.

There were many vegetables including in salads, cheeses (Edam, McClaren’s,* Roquefort), ice cream, pumpkin pie, and the apple in different forms.

There was also “breakfast food”, showing American “cereal” had already penetrated the heartland even though only lately developed. There were eggs in many preparations, steak, ham, bacon, vanilla wafers, preserves and marmalade. Toast and rolls of different types.

“Congress wafers”, too. Perhaps a light jape of the catering department? A quick search did not enable me to resolve the nature of this dish.

There were more off-piste selections, as well: Mulligatawny soup, chicken with okra (maybe New Orleans-inspired), Indian pudding (New England), and “orange fritters” with wine sauce.



The above items are only part of what was served. The selections would serve nicely today for a convention, indeed for any eating, if well-prepared, as I imagine they were.

For alcohol there were four brands of beer: Guinness stout, Dog’s Head Bass Pale Ale, Budweiser, and Pabst. Each was a standby in its category, even then.

The wine list offered Bordeaux** and Burgundy red wines, different Champagnes, even a California “cabernet” (misspelled). There were Plymouth gin, brandy, straight bourbon and rye, Canadian rye, scotch, liqueurs, and Cuban and other cigars.

Very solid choice, it would be no less so today.

Doubtless most enjoyed the booze in moderation, as most adults would today.

N.B. I’m not sure what the orange fritters was, either. The Food Network offers this recipe, maybe it was the same, or similar.

Note re images: images above were sourced respectively from the NYPL and MNopedia sites linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owners, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*A MacClaren’s cheese spread is available to this day, e.g. at Walmart.

**This modern wine of Bordeaux, identified from the “famille Bouliac“, may be similar to what the good burghers enjoyed on the trip to Salt Lake.



2 thoughts on ““Episcopal Special””

  1. Nice post! Just a little note about manufactured breakfast cereals. The big companies that made them advertised them like crazy in the early 20th century and also put a lot of effort into introducing them to potential customers via restaurants and lunch rooms — and no doubt trains!

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