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Odd Wisconsin Archive

New Year's Revelry, 1840s-style


Milwaukee's New Year's Eve party of 1843 was talked about for decades. About 6,000 people lived in the city then, and hundreds headed to the Milwaukie House hotel for a memorable night of gluttony. A local writer said that "every man who set out to be somebody," accompanied by "ladies in crinoline skirts and tiny bonnets," sat down at long tables in the dining room. Proprietor Caleb Wall proudly showed them a menu that few restaurants could recreate today.

Mock turtle soup was followed by a choice of roast turkey, goose, duck, beef, chicken or veal. Next came the boiled course (corned beef, mutton, ham, turkey or tongue) followed by venison a la mode and "bird pie." Then boiled fish and chicken salad. Those who had room left for anything else could finish off their feast with apple, cranberry, or mince pie, unless they preferred plum pudding.

Not mentioned on the menu were the beverages, but we can safely assume that large amounts of hard cider, beer, wine, and brandy were consumed. "Before the new year dawned," reported a local historian, "some of the male guests would be carted home in wheelbarrows, but in those days this was no deep disgrace."


:: Posted in Curiosities on December 26, 2013
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