During the 20th century, Newport, like many other modernizing American cities, experienced a variety of changes in patterns of food consumption and purchase. Many of these changes are featured in the Newport Historical Society’s latest exhibit Newport Eats: Dining in the 20th Century, which highlights food-related objects and photographs.
This exhibit, which is the first in the Society’s history-of-food initiative, Newport Eats, highlights the public and private dining experiences of Newport County residents during an often-overlooked period and includes menus, announcements, tableware and other ephemera related to local eateries of the 20th century. Several well-known establishments are included such as Newport Creamery, the Hotel Viking, The Mile Post and the Muenchinger-King Hotel. In addition a display of Newport-themed cocktail ware places a spotlight on one of the 20th century’s most enduring trends, the “cocktail hour.”
Another resounding theme found during exhibit research was the connection of food and community in 20th-century life. Recurring clambakes, picnics, testimonial dinners, and other special events brought the community at large together around shared meals and celebrations.
Concurrently, a first-floor window exhibit at the Brick Market: Museum & Shop inspired by photographs found in the Newport Historical Society’s collection will present a 19th-century summer picnic scene reflecting period trends in outdoor dining. It showcases reproductions of Newport food-related artifacts from the 19th century, such as menus, invitations, advertisement cards and invoices.
Over the next year, the Society will continue to investigate the role that food has played over the course of Newport County’s history as part of Newport Eats. This unique initiative aims to illuminate past food traditions and provide historic context to present-day ideas such as sustainability, local sourcing, and community building. Other Newport Eats programing includes the talk Rhode Island’s Shellfish Heritage: An Ecological History on Thursday September 29, 2016 and a tea-related living history program, which will take place in mid-October.
Newport Eats: Dining in the 20th Century takes place at the Museum of Newport History, located at the Brick Market: Museum & Shop, 127 Thames Street, Newport, RI. The Museum is open daily at 10am, admission is by donation.
Above: Photograph of a picnic at the “Old Rec”, Farewell Street, circa 1955.