Airline menus of the past were pretty lavish. They were also printed on fine paper with colorful designs that tended to showcase a country's cuisine. Of course, this was during the days when the industry was still regulated, where most airlines were pretty much guaranteed a profit.
The Menu Collection of the Northwestern University Transportation Library currently includes more than 400 menus from 54 global airlines, cruise ships, and railroad companies, from 1929 to the present. The collection is dominated by U.S. airlines, but also includes European, Asian, African, Australasian, and South American carriers.
The bulk of the collection was donated by George M. Foster, who took his first flight in 1935. He traveled the globe for 70 years as an anthropologist and consultant to international agencies including the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Within his donation of 371 menus, he wrote notes and comments on his flight dates and airplane types, along with food and wine ratings... and descriptions.
Below are menus from 20 airlines from the collection, representing the 1960s and 1970s. All photos courtesy of the Menu Collection of the Northwestern University Transportation Library.
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This is a cocktail menu created by what was the country's oldest airline before it ceased operating in August 2010. Drinks available included Chivas Regal, martini, Kahlua, Cuervo tequila and Charles Heidsieck champagne.
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Malaysian Airline System
Travelers on this airline's flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, Indonesia via a Boeing 707 in 1974 were served a meal that included chicken salad Hawaiian, Swiss roti and assorted desserts.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
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During a Douglas DC-8 flight from Miami to San Francisco in 1968, travelers were served specialty cocktails, including the Orange Blossom and the Florida Flip. There were also hot hors d'oeuvres, an appetizer of chilled shrimp mignonette, a choice of Chicken Kiev or filet mignon with salad or vegetables, ending with key lime pie or French pastries. And the menu also served as a sun reflector.
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This is a menu from Minneapolis-based carrier, which merged with Delta Air Lines in October 2008, that was used on its Seattle to Tokyo, Japan-Hong Kong, route using a Boeing 707 on November 14, 1966. Representative meals served on the flight included Marchand de vin and Broiled tomato Provencale.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
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This is a menu from the Houston-based carrier, which merged with United Airlines in March 2012, on a route from Washington, D.C., to Denver, on July 16, 1979. The representative menu on the flight was Kansas City strip steak and Breast of chicken vodkaliano.
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Hong Kong's flag carrier served this menu on a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 16, 1974. It was printed in English, Japanese and Chinese. The representative mean on the flight was Chicken a la Kiev and vanilla mousse.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
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Here's a menu from the New York-based carrier's Boeing 747 route from San Francisco to Tokyo, on October 5, 1979. Representative menu items included Lamb curry with chutney and Rice pilaf.
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British Overseas Airways Corporation
The menu on the precursor carrier to British Airways on its Miami to London route in 1969. Representative dishes on the menu were grilled fillet steak nicoise and breast of chicken chasseur.
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This menu was featured on the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier's Boeing 707 flight from San Francisco to New York, N.Y., on October 16, 1967. It included the representative dishes of Demitasse of puree Mongol soup and Fantasia torte.
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This was a menu used for first class by Italy's flag carrier on a flight from Rome to New York on August 27, 1962. The appetizers were Iranian caviar, Italian salami, consumme or mushroom cream soup. Entrees offered were saltimbocca, filet of beef or cannelloni. Dessert was cheese, harlequin cake or a fruit basket.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
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The airline served this meal on a flight from Miami to its Santiago, Chile, hub on February 25, 1985. Snacks included cold cuts, french pastries and a cheese board. Appetizers were caviar, shrimp roi Neptune or foie gras and truffles. Entrees were filet mignon or sole du roi. For dessert, travelers had a choice of snow ball, fruit basket or cheese board.
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This was a menu from a flight operated from the airline's Cincinnati hub to Paris on June 9, 1992. Printed in French and English, the meal started with a mixed green salad with shrimp. Entree choices included filet mignon, chicken Elizabeth or seafood Neptune. Dessert was a choice of fruit and cheese or french pastries.
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Western Airlines, which merged with Delta Air Lines in 1987, used to fly between San Francisco International Airport and Honolulu International Airport. The menu, from May 1970, featured the Mai Tai cocktail along with a salmon tartare appetizer, a Hearts of Palm salad and a choice of New York Strip Steak, Cornish Game Hens or Scallops of Veal. Dessert was Baked Alaska.