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Archive of the month: Menu from aboard the passenger steamer BREMEN IV

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Menu from aboard the passenger steamer BREMEN IV

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In the series "Archive of the Month", the German Maritime Museum (DSM) / Leibniz Institute of Maritime History regularly presents a special treasure from the archive. In October, DSM curator Dr. Marleen von Bargen looks at the culture of travel at sea and presents a menu from the passenger steamer BREMEN IV dated July 16, 1929.

When the fast steamer BREMEN (IV), the prestigious newbuilding of Norddeutscher Lloyd (NDL), set out on its maiden voyage from Bremerhaven to New York on July 16, 1929, the upscale passengers were served this menu in the evening. On the front is a scene designed by the painter Felix Schwormstädt (1870-1938). It shows two elegant ladies seated in wicker chairs and flanked by flowers, being entertained by two well-dressed gentlemen in a casual pose.

The graphic not only echoes the common ideas of the time about how the sexes should treat each other, but also conveys one of the central messages that shipping companies used to promote a new culture of travel by sea beginning around 1900: The ship was stylized as a place of pleasure, a symbol of the romantic sea voyage, a parallel world to the gray everyday world and a meeting place for an illustrious society. This also included the upscale service on board, including opulent meals, to which special attention was paid.

The menus on board were mostly based on the classic menu sequence according to French tradition, as had been customary since the 19th century. There was an appetizer, then soup, followed by fish, poultry and meat dishes, vegetables, salad, dessert, and finally nuts, cheese and a digestif. In the lower classes, meals were not as opulent. In the 1920s, however, comfort and food here were greatly improved, and a tourist class was also introduced. The large quantity of surviving menus preserved in the DSM archives alone suggests that meals were probably indeed among the highlights on board. Many travelers later took the menus home as souvenirs.

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