The Infamous “Titanic Menu”
The Titanic Historical Society published this article to its readers as a public service. Documentation is in the Society’s files. While in Denver in April, 1999 attending The Titanic Historical Society’s convention, a menu was shown on the television programme, “Antiques Roadshow,” whose owner in Boston claimed was an original from the Titanic worth $75,000.00. A few months later, an antique gallery in Texas had another that it was planning to auction online. That menu was found on the back of a framed picture and also was given a hefty appraisal. And as this article was being written, another was being offered by a dealer of fine books and manuscripts and a colour photograph of the menu appeared on the front cover of company’s catalogue.
These examples were distressing not only because of their estimated value but because the menus aren’t what people assume. Reproductions of Titanic mementos have been created for many years for various reasons and usually have caused no problems. As you know the Society and 7C’s Press have offered facsimiles of brochures and so forth for decades. We’ve added our logo to identify the item from the original but that hasn’t always been the case when other copies have been manufactured. Most of the time, little harm was done except perhaps for some wounded pride when an owner discovered his treasure wasn’t rare or original. For the most part, the buyer was happy and the seller was happy because the prices asked were fair and the buyer wanted the item for his own pleasure.
Since the world-wide exposure and success of Jim Cameron’s movie, the antique and collectibles markets have dealt with a wealth of “Titanic” memorabilia and some of the results haven’t been good. Not only has interest skyrocketed but the opportunity to make large profits is irresistible.
The menu reproduction being discussed has a history that began in 1962 and has fooled a lot of people — including a Titanic survivor in Britain who tried to sell one to the Society in the 1970s’ when a decade before that same document was given as a gift to every Society member, including her, in an insert in The Titanic Commutator and apparently in a memory lapse, she had forgotten.
Prior to the formal organization of The Titanic Historical Society (then TEA in 1963), the late Richard F. Oden, who was a charter member and whose interest in the disaster paralleled Founder and President Edward Kamuda’s, met via a publicity campaign. Mr. Oden was Vice President of the First City Bank of Rosemead, California and President of that city’s Chamber of Commerce, and was the sponsor of a promotion designed to “put our city on the map” [his words] and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the sinking. Judging by the legacy of this menu Rosemead is remembered.
From the Society’s files are one of several publicity releases from the Rosemead Chamber of Commerce:
ROSEMEAD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ROSEMEAD’S TITANIC NIGHT TO REMEMBER APRIL 14
NEWS RELEASE APRIL 1962
The City of Rosemead through the Chamber of Commerce is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. In a program to be given on April 14 at the Rosemead High School, the exact date 50 years later, the dinner to be served will duplicate the same meal served the last night afloat and reproductions of that menu will be given to each in attendance. This menu is exact as to colors, papers, and printing. A survivor, Edwina [nee Troutt] Corrigan will relate her experiences that night to remember, a reproduction of the first wireless call for help as sent out by the Titanic at 11:58 will be heard. Noted TV, screen, and other prominent guests have been invited. Actual pictures of this ship, both still and motion pictures made in 1912 will be shown. A a climax to the evening, a feature motion picture of the story of the Titanic will be screened.
The commemoration of the event is extremely timely, not only from the 50th anniversary, but with the news report of March 17 that there will be an official re-opening of the sinking of the Titanic inquiry by British ship owners within the next few weeks. New evidence has apparently been obtained by Captain Stanley Lord in an effort to clear his name of the stigma given to him by both the inquiries of the British Board of Trade and the United States Senate Titanic Investigation Committee in 1912.
The Rosemead Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring this program as a recognition of the tremendous and continuing interest in this greatest of all sea tragedies. The program, including dinner, will be held at the Rosemead High School starting at 7:30 P.M. on Saturday, April 14. Tickets are priced at $4.50. The school is located at the corners of Rosemead Blvd. and Mission Street in Rosemead.
Tickets may be obtained from the Chamber of Commerce, 9048 Valley Blvd., Rosemead, either by by calling at the office or by mail. Pictures and news items may also be obtained from the Chamber Office for use by news media.
After the April 14, 1962 Titanic Night to Remember event some of the extra menus [which, incidentally, were for a Luncheon on the Titanic] were given to the Society and they were distributed in a Titanic Commutator mailing in the late 1960s. Others remaining made their way around Rosemead and beyond.
They must have raised some interest because Mr. Oden mentioned the menus in a 1974 letter to Mr. Kamuda saying that local antique dealers were selling them at $5.00 to $15.00…and some had left on the bank’s name!
Printed at the bottom of the “Rosemead menu” is this wording followed by a thin black line and the bank information : Iced draught Munich Lager Beer 3d. & 6d. a Tankard. Courtesy of the FIRST CITY BANK 123 South Lake Ave., Pasadena and Valley at Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, Calif.
Over all measurement is about 7 x 10 inches. The First City Bank’s advertisement was cut off on some menus decreasing their size to approximately 7 x 9 3/8 inches. Others have bits of the thin black line showing depending on how carefully the last sentence was trimmed. The one on the cover of the latest catalogue referred to earlier had the entire line intact.
The Chamber’s description on their news release: This menu is exact as to colors, papers, and printing…isn’t entirely wrong but the devil is in the details. The colors, font [or type] resemble an original however its texture, weight and finish aren’t correct and some letters are filled in making them muddier in appearance. What is most important, however, are some specifics which distinguish this one from the real item. According to Paul Louden-Brown who supplied most of the information and who is compiling a definitive reference work on the White Star Line–menus were produced in several standard sizes on White Star vessels which would naturally include the Titanic. Menu sizes and formats didn’t change until the post-war period. This particular one [the “Rosemead menu”] does not relate to any size the company used.
For some reason, which isn’t logical, there are individuals who think the Titanic’s menus were different from those used on the other White Star Line ships. (Examples of first-, second- and third-class were illustrated in the article and examples may be seen at the Titanic Museum). Stationery, log cards, menu cards, etc. produced for White Star were supplied by the Liverpool Printing and Stationery Co. in standard sizes. Menu cards and other pre-printed blanks were letterpress printed in the ship’s own printshop. These same blanks, the ones made for first-class, had edges of 22k gold–another underlying element of understated elegance–subtle appearances that White Star adopted on everyday items reflecting a standard for quality. The spacing between the printed words varied–slightly different fonts were used since the type was set by hand and a printer often adopted his own style using what was available. As one runs a finger across a White Star menu the impressions made from the type can be felt whereas the “Rosemead menu” is smooth.
Most importantly, everything on paper in first-class on White Star vessels–whether it was letterheads, menus, notices, wine lists, stationery/envelopes, etc., was thermographically printed. Thermography is a chemical process which produced a glossy, raised image by using heat or infrared light. The image was first printed by letterpress using an adhesive ink which was coated with a fusible resin containing pigment (red for the burgee) and metallic powder (gold for the company logo, Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. [OSNC] as examples. (Of those illustrated in this article, the ship names are also thermographically printed). When passed under a heater or infrared lamp the coating fused and raised to give a sharp, clean image. From the reverse side of the paper or card the process resembles blind embossing. The White Star Line burgee, company logo and the ship’s name, were therefore, “raised” on first-class menus, etc. Upon examining the “Rosemead menu” the White Star burgee, OSNC logo and “SS Titanic” isn’t raised, but simply printed in red, gold and black ink. That’s the critical detail.
Thermographic printing was used on White Star Line vessels at least as early as 1873 (Mr. Louden-Brown has an item from first class with that date). It was costly because of the large number of sheets spoilt in the process and also because passengers took more sheets of letter paper then they really needed. Therefore by the mid-1920s White Star began to replace this type of printed stationery with conventional letterpress or offset lithography printed items.
by Karen Kamuda