New Year's Day Menu 1885
The Central Kansas Live Stock Association held its first annual ball and banquet on January 1, 1885, at the Coolidge Hotel in Emporia, Kansas. Situated on upland prairie, where the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway crossed the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, the town of about 6,000 was ideally positioned to ship their crops and grass-fattened cattle to markets on the East and West coasts. The railroads also brought food to Kansas, such as the fresh oysters and fish served at the banquet. As the hundred and 30 couples gathered that evening, one of the topics of conversation may have been about the recent death of John Simpson Chisum, the Texas rancher who owned over 100,000 head of cattle, making him the largest cattle baron in the country. No matter how timely the news, however, nothing could have diverted their attention for long from the extraordinary banquet that awaited them.
The menu shown below features a wide assortment of game, such as wild turkey, prairie chicken, Canvasback duck, buffalo, elk, antelope, and black-tailed deer. There are three species of bear prepared in different ways—fillet of Grizzly bear, ribs of Black bear, and loin of Cinnamon bear “a la Apache.” Other curious game dishes include braised jack rabbit with burgundy sauce, peacock in gravy, and English hare, Jayhawk style, named after a fictitious bird that once referred to abolitionist guerrillas who fought in the area during Civil War, and later came to simply mean a person living in Kansas. In keeping with the theme, there are very few vegetables, despite the fact that there were many well-tilled farms in the valleys of central Kansas.
The most unusual thing about this menu are the dishes named after domestic breeds of cattle and swine. Utilizing the efficient rail system, various hams and cuts of beef were shipped to Emporia for the banquet from all seven counties encompassed by the Central Kansas Live Stock Association. Although Galloway, Hereford, and Durham cattle originally came from the United Kingdom, two of the three breeds of swine on the menu originated in the United States. Chester White hogs first appeared in Chester County, Pennsylvania sometime around 1818. Poland China hogs were bred in Ohio at about the same time, shortly after the Shaker Society there bought a boar and three sows from a firm in Philadelphia. Excellent feeders that gain weight quickly, Poland China now rank high in U.S. pork production.3 On the other end of the scale, Berkshire hogs became a rare breed. Pink-hued and heavily marbled, Berkshire have made a comeback in recent years, showing up on the menus of upscale restaurants that select them for their juiciness and flavor.
After dinner, there were eighteen toasts, beginning with the State of Kansas, the country, and the cattle interests of the state. These were followed by ones to the domestic markets, the foreign markets, shorthorn cattle, Galloway cattle, Jersey cattle, feeding and grazing cattle, cattle on the Rio Grande, longhorns, the American hog, live stock transportation, the wool interests of Kansas, the cornfields of Kansas, Buffalo grass, and the middle man. The last toast of the evening was to “the ladies,” and with that sentiment properly expressed, it was time for the band to strike up a tune and let the dancing begin. In what sounded more like a hop than a ball, the Wichita Daily Eagle reported that men “whose feet had been strangers to the dance floor for many a year, tripped the light fantastic” until the late hours of the night.
As things turned out, there was some big news coming out of Emporia in 1885. The problem started the month before the banquet when James Walkup, a forty-eight-year-old businessman and acting mayor of Emporia, went to New Orleans to visit its famous brothels. It was there that he met fifteen-year-old Minnie Wallace, the daughter of the woman who ran the boarding house where he was staying. Walkup became infatuated with the teenager who played the piano and sang in the city’s red-light district. After spurning his initial advances, Minnie eventually agreed to marry him. However, only a month after the newly-married couple returned to Emporia, Walkup fell ill and died; Minnie was charged with murder.
Reporters arrived from all over the country to cover the trial. The citizens of Emporia were divided as to whether Walkup had been poisoned by his charming new bride, even after an autopsy confirmed that he died of arsenic poisoning, a compound that Minnie had purchased from a local druggist on two occasions. Although arsenic was used medicinally for the skin, Minnie did not have any problems with her complexion and had never used it before. Nevertheless, after deliberating for fifty-two hours, the jury rendered a verdict of “not guilty,” one of the jurors later recalling that he had become haunted at the prospect of sending the young woman to the gallows. After being acquitted, Minnie moved away from Emporia, having collected a substantial amount of money from her late husband’s life insurance policy. Now only sixteen years old, she would go on to lead a long and notorious life, often surrounding herself with unscrupulous characters. In 1897, while living in Chicago, she met a wealthy man dying of alcoholism. After he moved into her house, Minnie kept him there as a virtual prisoner until she could arrange to take him to Wisconsin for a clandestine marriage ceremony. He died twelve days after signing a will leaving everything to her. In 1900, Minnie began a relationship with a married man twenty years her senior. After his wife died, he updated his will to leave a quarter of his estate to Minnie and died soon after of cyanide poisoning. Minnie died in 1957 at the age of 88 in San Diego, California.
Entry: New Year's Day Menu 1885
Author: Henry Voigt
Author information: Blog from The American Menu, New Years Day, 1885
Date Created: January 2012
Date Modified: March 2013
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.