Ephemera - Menus


Front and back cover of a menu circa the 1960'a from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Penn-Sheraton Hotel's Riverboat Room and Sidewheeler Bar. The artist based the waterfront commercial buildings on 1848 panoramic daguerreotypes taken of Cincinnati, Ohio riverfront.

Steamboat/Maritime references inside the menu include "Riverboat Casserole Specialties" and "Dine while STEAMIN' ROUND THE BEND." Bargain prices from the 20th Century: N.Y. SIRLOIN, Mushroom Cap $5.95 is the most expensive entre; RIVERBOAT ICE CREAM PIE 50 cents.


Planet Hollywood drinks menu ST. LOUIS - steamboat and Gateway Arch 2002

Super bright colors, stylized "poster" design graphic for the front of the 2002 drinks menu from the "bar/club" Planet Hollywood franchise in ST. LOUIS featuring a sternwheel "riverboat" as seen from a low angle point of view and the Gateway Arch looming in the distance. There was a patterned margin in 4 colors which I did not include here because there were problems to do with the condition so I concentrated on restoring this central portion which measures 6 3/4 by 12 1/8 inches.

The construction of the Gateway Arch, close to the Mississippi River short in St. Louis, began in February 1963. It was completed in October 1965, and cost less than $15 million to build. With foundations sunk 60 feet into the ground, its frame of stressed stainless steel is built to withstand both earthquakes and high winds. An internal tram system takes visitors to the top, where on a clear day they can see up to 30 miles across the winding Mississippi and to the Great Plains to the west. In addition to the Gateway Arch, the Jefferson Expansion Memorial includes the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse of St. Louis, where the infamous Dred Scott cases was heard. The Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott was one of the top factors that caused the Civil War.


MENU - circa 1864 bill o' fare for the ADAM JACOBS. Damned expensive but fulfilled a life long ambition to own a sure 'nuff steamboat bill o' fare. Inside the date and some of the courses like desserts are left blank so someone on board must've used a letter press to complete the "form" each day.

Way's Packet Directory
SW p wh b. Brownsville, Pa., 1864. 231 x 36 x 6. Engines 26's- 7 ft. Four boilers.
Was in Gen. Grant's fleet on Tennessee River. Named for Capt. Adam Jacobs, Brownsville, Pa. Machinery built by John Snowden & Son, Brownsville. Entered St. Louis-Memphis trade as an independent boat, September 1864. Became one of the early Anchor Line fleet. Dismantled in 1874 and machinery went to STE. GENEVIEVE of the Anchor Line.

Excerpt from
Natchez on the Mississippi:
by Harnett T. Kane
William Morrow & Company
New York, 1947
pages 295-96, Opening of Chapter 28


The crew and officers of one of the tinseled river steamers had been noticing something they could not explain. In one of the best cabins, nearly two months earlier, an elderly, jovial-mannered individual had taken passage at Natchez. Arriving at New Orleans, he announced that he would not get off, but remain until they reached St. Louis. At St. Louis he gave notice that he would stay on until they arrived back in New Orleans; and so it went.

The old fellow wasn't a gambler; that they knew, because they could spot the brotherhood a vessel's length away. He wasn't a thief or a murderer; he smiled along, talking, offering cigars, buying toddies, sitting around with the rest of the passengers. Still, they were disturbed by this phenomenon. Finally the captain had to do something. With several mumbled apologies, he brought up the subject.

His guest's answer became historic.

"Of course, sir, I'll tell you."
"It's the finest way to pleasure myself that I know."
"No hotel in America can equal this."
"The finest food—your wild game, your glazed fish, your roasts, sauces and pastry!"
The gourmet purred.
"My cabin—it's as finely equipped, as well decorated, as any room I've enjoyed in my life."
"The bar, the cabin, the promenade—nothing to match 'em, I tell you."
"And the company! I meet all my friends, the best people in the world."
"Why should I want to leave?"

The captain, pink with pride, bought the man a drink. The incident went the rounds, but the explanation brought little surprise. Everybody agreed the man was right.


MENU cover: "SHOWBOAT SPLENDOR" Jean A. Mercier 1970

Rather overwhelming over-the-top color and "phantasy" concept art reminiscent of the zaniness of Heinz Edelmann's art direction for the 1968 Beatles' animated feature YELLOW SUBMARINE.

The stacks have been given a barber pole /candy stick treatment and the overall in terms of design and costumes are reminiscent of a stage design for a production number for The Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway or for one of Busby Berkeley's 1930's Hollywood musicals or a lavish Las Vegas stage show.

Luncheon Menu cover art "Dream cruise for nostalgic lovers of SHOWBOAT SPLENDOR" pictorial area 8 x 9 inches by Jean A. Mercier (French, 1899-1995) S.S. OCEANIC Thurs 24 December 1970 Number 6 of a series of 8 menu covers with the theme "Dream Cruising" Tormena - Genova - Printed in Italy Sept 1970.

Jean-Adrien Mercier was a French illustrator and advertising designer. He began his career painting posters for films and advertising before becoming artistic director of the house Cointreau, his mother being a granddaughter of the founder of the company and daughter of the creator of triple sec Cointreau liqueur.

Mercier made the theme poster for the first trade fair of Angers in 1924. From 1925 to 1939, he created more than 110 movie posters. He also illustrated menus for the General Transatlantic Company. His posters were signed Jean A. Mercier.


With the exception of images credited to public institutions,
everything on this page is from a private collection.
Please contact for permission for commercial use.*

All captions provided by Dave Thomson, primary contributor and historian.