[MENU] Cataract House, Niagara Falls

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Whitney, Jerauld & Co. Proprietors. Niagara Falls, NY, 1884. 21 x 14 cm. Single page fold-out menu. Dinner, Sunday August 31st, 1884. Concealed in the folds of this menu is an often forgotten link to slavery and the Underground Railroad. In the early 19th century, the shoreline on the American side of Niagara Falls was primarily occupied by small mills and factories making use of the waterpower generated by the waterfall. By the 1820’s the demand for tourist accommodations forced many mill owners to convert their factories into hotels and boarding houses. Cataract House opened in 1825, bought by General Parkhurst Whitney in 1831, and expanded and improved throughout the century including running water, supplied by the river, piped down from tanks directly into the basement for the laundry. In the 1850s onward, this basement was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Most of the hotel staff were free literate blacks, capable of reading railway time schedules, who assisted escaping slaves into Canada by ferry, train, or bridge. The glory days for the Cataract House coincided with those of the railroads, dropping guests off directly in front of the hotel and furnishing these well heeled travelers with sumptuous food and drink, with the menu changing every day. On this late August day some of the items on the menu include: Mock Turtle soup, Buffalo Tongue, Fillet of Veal, Bermuda Onions, French Mustard, Walnut Catsup, Charlotte Russe, Watermelons, Moet & Chandon Champagne, Ports, Sherrys, French White & Burgundies, Claret, Porter, Ales and Ciders, and liqueurs. Meal times listed for Breakfast, Dinner, Supper, and Hours for Children & Servants. Turkey with Celery Sauce is crossed out in pencil and Egg Plant fried in Batter is hand written under the Entrees section. Cover adorned with black and white etching of the falls and hotel. Folds on rear cover discernible but not affecting text.