What 19-century Texans Ate for Independence Day

The first observances of Texas Independence Day were relatively sedate affairs: The semi-centennial in 1886 was marked by readings of the Declaration and a sprucing-up of Sam Houston's grave. In Brenham, a congressman gave a speech that the local press deemed "eloquent and appropriate."

Many Texans didn't bother with the March 2 holiday, including -- in 1887 -- members of the state Senate.

"A motion to adjourn the Senate was made on the ground that the day was the anniversary of the declaration of Texan Independence, but it was voted down by those who had more interest in certain measures than in the Texas Fourth of July," the Galveston Daily News reported.

It's unclear from the article, titled "A Humdrum Day: Nothing Particularly Interesting," just which measures distracted the men from their patriotic concerns.

But Galveston's Chamber of Commerce realized the holiday was an occasion to party, and in 1894 staged its first Texas Independence Day banquet. While the Daily News didn't report on the proceedings, it devoted dozens of column inches the following year to the banquet's second edition, billed as "a feast of good things."

The meal was held in a fern-filled dining room at the opulent Beach Hotel, with 88 dignitaries seated at a horseshoe-shaped table. The table was set with shaded lamps and calla lilies draped in crepe paper: The Daily News characterized it as "a bower of beauty."

And there was plenty to eat. While an orchestra played, guests worked their way through a lavish menu of Champagne, frog legs and potato chips.

In honor of Texas Independence Day today, you might drink Dr Pepper and eat a brisket taco. Or, if you're in a snazzy mood and have access to turtle meat, you might want to feast as the Galvestonians did. Here, the complete menu from The Galveston Chamber of Commerce's Texas Independence Day banquet, 1895 (Note: As reprinted in the newspaper, the dinner wasn't divided into courses. But the various wines likely signaled the natural service breaks.)

First course Oysters Celery en branches Clear terrapin quenelles Russian caviar Baked red snapper a la Chambord Pommes croquettes Sliced tomatoes Queen olives Sauterne

Second course Frog legs a la diplomate Saratoga chips Sweetbreads a la financiere Asparagus Hollandaise Pontet-Canet

Third course Escalloped oysters Nathalie punch

Fourth course Broiled quail sur canapé French peas Marmalade jelly G.H. Mumm's Extra Dry

Fifth course Boned turkey Toasted crackers Chicken salad

Dessert course Vatican ice cream Assorted cakes Nuts and raisins Fruit Roquefort cheese Café noir Cigars

"The occasion was a memorable one," the Daily News concluded.

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Hanna Raskin
Contact: Hanna Raskin

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