Twenty-Thousand-Dollar Banquet - 1910

Twenty-Thousand-Dollar Banquet - 1910

Probably the greatest catering feat ever accomplished in the state of Illinois was handled by the Richelieu Catering Co. of Chicago in Springfield, on the anniversary of Lincoln's one hundredth birthday.

The banquet was served in the Armory and covers were laid for eight hundred at twenty- five dollars the plate. The caterer's bill was, approximately, $10,000. The balance of the money was spent for decorations, souvenirs, entertainment of invited guests, music and other necessary expenses.

This was the menu (with accompanying wines and spirits):

  • Cotuits Oysters
  • (Martini Cocktail)
  • Mock turtle, American
  • Celery Olives Radishes
  • (Haut Sauternes)
  • Crab meat with fresh mushrooms, Illini
  • Tenderloin of beef, Sangamon
  • Duchesse potatoes
  • Green peas
  • (Apollinaris)
  • Log Cabin Punch
  • Breast of guinea squab, Old Salem.
  • (Pommard)
  • Compote of fruit
  • Lettuce and endive salad
  • Ice cream
  • Assorted cakes
  • (Pommery and Greno Sec)
  • Creamed Roquefort cheese, in celery
  • Crackers
  • Coffee
  •  (Cordials)
  • Cigars 
  • Cigarettes

To serve this banquet, the Richelieu Catering Company took from Chicago a 48-foot range, coffee urns, utensils, and all the necessary paraphernalia for cooking and serving the banquet.

The service of china, glass, silver and linen required three railroad cars. Eighteen thousand pieces of china were used. A special kitchen was built in the rear of the Armory, tent-covered, and with wood floor.

Gas pipes were connected for fuel, and these were protected against frost, so that nothing would mar the success of the culinary end.

All the foods were brought from Chicago (192 miles) on Thursday night, and the banquet was served Friday night. Seventy-five colored waiters were employed, and twenty-five white men for wine service.

Forty-five of the colored waiters and all of the white waiters were brought from Chicago. One hundred and thirty help in all were employed by the caterers.

The provisions included nine barrels of oysters, fifty gallons of soup, thirty pounds of crab meat flakes, thirty pounds of fresh mushrooms, 560 pounds of No. 1 beef tenderloin, and 375 guinea fowl.

The liquid refreshments served averaged for each guest: one cocktail, one glass of sauterne, one glass of Pommard, three glasses of champagne, and one liqueur. Each diner received three cigars.

The service began at 7:30, and was ended at 9:30, when the speechmaking began. Everything went off as smooth as smooth could be, and the catering firm was highly complimented on the skillful management and the correct service.

The hall was beautifully decorated by a St. Louis firm, the chief decorations being chandeliers and wall brackets of electric lights, each bulb the center of a poinsettia flower.

The credit for the success of this great banquet is due Richard Ostenrieder, general manager of the Edelweiss and Hofbrau Restaurants; S. Pruym, manager of the catering department of the Hofbrau Restaurant and Richelieu Catering Company; and Albert Stalle, chef of the Richelieu Catering Company.

The illustration herewith of the banquet hall is from a photograph by Lawrence of Chicago, and shows the clever arrangement of the tables, by which, radiating from the speakers' table, each of the eighty tables (with ten diners at each) was located so that every diner had unobstructed view of the speakers' table. The table decoration was of cut flowers arranged in mounds purposely low, so as not to obstruct the view of the speakers' table.

Each guest was presented with a bound volume of the Life of Lincoln. The menu card was in form of a booklet, the leaves eight by ten inches, the cover presenting a fine portrait of Lincoln, Selections from Lincoln's addresses and correspondence, gems of American literature, scintillated through the pages.

Notwithstanding the vast amount of table ware required for the service of this banquet, the inventory count of the returned goods showed only four knives and four forks missing. The total loss, including china, glass, silver, linen, and breakage, amounted to less than $75.

How Costly Was This Banquet?

  • In 2017, the relative price worth of $20,000.00 from 1909 is:
    $556,000.00 using the Consumer Price Index ($695/Guest)
    $397,000.00 using the GDP deflator
  • In 2017, the relative amount consumers spend worth of $20,000.00 from 1909 is:
    $1,160,000.00 using the Value of Consumer Bundle ($1,450/Guest)
  • In 2017, the relative wage or income worth of $20,000.00 from 1909 is:
    $2,370,000.00 using the unskilled wage
    $3,880,000.00 using the Production Worker Compensation
    $3,320,000.00 using the nominal GDP per capita ($4,150/Guest)
  • In 2017, the relative output worth of $20,000.00 from 1909 is:
    $12,000,000.00 using the relative share of GDP ($15,000/Guest)

"A Twenty-Thousand-Dollar Banquet: Chicago Firm Successfully Caters for Eight Hundred at Lincoln Centennial Feast in Springfield, Illinois," (From the Hotel Monthly, March 1909), in Menus and Bills of Fare: Appendix to Fellows' Menu Maker, in The Menu Maker, Chicago: The Hotel Monthly Press, 1916, p. 8-9 (Appendix).

Samuel H. Williamson, "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present," MeasuringWorth, April 2019. (Emphasis Added)

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