McMaster students closed the 19th century with a Christmas feast for the ages

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Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections Mills
Photo of menu from 1899 student Christmas dinner

McMaster’s library recently acquired a copy of the menu from the 1899 student Christmas dinner, a document dating back to when McMaster was just 12 years old – some 31 years before the university would move from downtown Toronto to its current location in Hamilton.

By Wade Hemsworth

It’s a window into another time, dating back to the early history of McMaster University, when students really knew how to eat.

McMaster’s library recently acquired a copy of the menu from the 1899 student Christmas dinner, a document dating back to when McMaster was just 12 years old – some 31 years before the university would move from downtown Toronto to its current location in Hamilton.

Read Welcome to Christmas dinner, 1899 in the Hamilton Spectator

Back then, the student body would have been about 200, estimates librarian-archivist Rick Stapleton – less than one per cent the size it is today, when McMaster has about 30,000 full-time, part-time undergraduate and graduate students.

Though they were few in number, students of the day made up for it at their Christmas dinner, gorging on a nine-course meal. The menu featured a spectacular array of items including soups, salmon, turkey, goose and roast beef, oyster patties, breads, cheeses, pudding, cakes and pies.

Joining the students at the groaning board were members of the faculty, Senate and Board of Governors, plus representatives from other institutions and a selection of prominent Toronto business figures.

The event included toasts to Queen and country, McMaster University, sister institutions, learned professionals and, in a particularly apparent sign of the times, “ladies”.

The menu is decorated with quotations from Shakespeare, Tennyson, Milton, Byron and others, and the copy in the archives includes the autographs of other quests at the dinner, signed with the flourishes characteristic of the time.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the pages are also marked by what appear to be food stains.

- Source: http://dailynews.mcmaster.ca/article/mcmaster-students-closed-the-19th-century-with-a-christmas-feast-for-the-ages/#sthash.LtAoXHty.dpuf